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If you want to get involved locally, D.C.'s cleanup will be held on Kingman Island (575 Oklahoma Ave NE) on Saturday, September 16 from 9:30 a.m. - 12;30 p.m. (Image: Marja G. Diaz/ Ocean Conservancy)

Marine debris is a global problem. Here's how you can be part of the local solution

Did you know that scientists estimate that more than 17 billion pounds of plastic enters our ocean every year? Or that more than 800 species of marine life, from the tiniest plankton to the largest whales, have been documented with plastic in their stomachs? And I'd bet you didn't know that for the last thirty one years, the third Saturday in September has been dedicated to cleaning up trash? If you're wondering why you're getting an eco lecture from me on this fine September Friday, don't worry, I have a point.

Saturday September 16 will draw a few hundred volunteers to one of D.C.'s hidden gems, Kingman Island, for the 32nd annual International Coastal Cleanup -- it's the world's largest single-day volunteer cleanup effort for the ocean! Over the last three decades, more than 12 million volunteers from more than 150 countries have removed more than 228 million pounds of trash all around the globe; enough balloons were collected to lift a walrus and enough cigarette lighters were found to stack up ten times the height of the Eiffel Tower. Last year in D.C. alone more than 300 volunteers collected 2,500 pounds of trash from the Anacostia River, ranging from the common (plastic bottles, cigarette butts, foam containers and bottle caps) to the utterly bizarre, like bowling balls and a firehose.

"Since 1986, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)—the world’s largest volunteer effort on behalf of ocean health—and used citizen science to build the largest global database on marine debris," according to a press release.

D.C.'s 2016 ICC by the numbers

  • People: 330
  • Pounds of trash collected: 2,527.54
  • Miles traveled (collectively): 25.1
  • Total items collected: 5,937

Top 10 items collected during D.C.'s 2016 ICC event:

  • Beverage Bottles (Plastic) 1156
  • Food Wrappers (candy, chips, etc.) 401
  • Cigarette Butts 370
  • Take Out/Away Containers (Foam) 266
  • Cups, Plates (Plastic) 206
  • Grocery Bags (Plastic) 200
  • Other Packaging (Clean Swell) 185
  • Bottle Caps (Plastic) 156
  • Beverage Cans 154
  • Straws, Stirrers 113

Weird finds from D.C. in 2016:

  • Toy treasure chest
  • Bowling ball
  • A firehose
  • Old Metro coin

If you want to get involved locally, D.C.'s cleanup will be held on Kingman Island (575 Oklahoma Ave NE) on Saturday, September 16 from 9:30 a.m. - 12;30 p.m. A free shuttle service will be available from Stadium-Armory metro stop and parking will be available at RFK Stadium lot 6. Breakfast, lunch and all supplies will be provided. You can register to volunteer here.

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