World marine debris totals 10 mln in 1-day cleanup

* Trash travels from land to rivers to oceans

* Cigarette butts, medical waste, appliances found

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON, April 13 (BestGrowthStock) – More than 10 million
pieces of trash were plucked from the world’s waterways in a
single day last year. But for Philippe Cousteau, the beach
sandals that washed up in the Norwegian arctic symbolized the
global nature of the problem of marine debris.

“We saw flip-flops washing ashore on these islands in far
northern Norway near the Arctic Circle,” Cousteau, a
conservationist and grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques
Cousteau, said in a telephone interview.

Cousteau was commenting on marine debris statistics
released on Tuesday by the Ocean Conservancy group.

“People don’t wear flip-flops in the Arctic, at least not
if they’re sane,” Cousteau said. “I think people are starting
… to realize that this is a global problem.”

The report detailed the amount and kind of trash that
volunteers gathered on one day in 2009 along coastlines of six
continents and the banks of inland waterways, stressing that as
much as 80 percent of marine litter starts on land.

“Trash travels, and no beach, lakeshore or riverfront is
untouched — no matter how remote,” Vikki Spruill, Ocean
Conservancy’s CEO, wrote in the report’s introduction.

Last year, 10,239,538 pieces of junk were retrieved from
shorelines on one day, Sept. 19, 2009, by about half a million
volunteers in the conservancy’s annual international coastal
cleanup. This year’s cleanup day is Sept. 25.

More than 40 percent of that total was collected in the
United States, including everything from bottle caps and
plastic six-pack holders to cigarette butts, washing machines,
construction materials, diapers, condoms and medical waste. The
United States had the most volunteers, nearly triple the number
in the Philippines, which had the second-most.

Nearly 20 percent of the items collected threaten public
health, including bacteria-laden medical waste, appliances,
cars and chemical drums, the report said. Some debris is a
threat to marine animals, which can become tangled in dumped
fishing nets and line or ingest floating plastic junk.

As plastics break down in the oceans, they look a lot like
organisms called plankton that form the base of the food chain,
Cousteau said.

“Fish and other animals are ingesting them and in so doing
ingesting the toxins that these plastics absorb,” he said. “And
then guess who eats the fish?”

Cousteau said these plastics contain high levels of
dioxins, PCBs and other chemicals that can affect hormones, and
also lack any nutritional value, so marine creatures can die
with stomachs full of plastic.

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(Editing by Will Dunham)

World marine debris totals 10 mln in 1-day cleanup