International Coastal Cleanup Day is one of the world’s largest annual preservation and protection volunteer events for our ocean’s coasts. But did you know that the plastic crisis can’t be “cleaned up”?
Unfortunately, plastic does not biodegrade but instead breaks down into very small pieces which are carried with water, currents, and winds throughout the ocean, become ingested by animals, and make their way to unreachable locations. The concentration and the distribution of these microplastics are so widespread and the particles are so small that trying to clean them up is not possible. In fact, new studies shared this year show that microplastics have now made their way into the human bloodstream!
Heirs To Our Ocean recognizes that the true solution to stop plastic pollution is to stop it at its source, with the producing corporations! Each year Heirs To Our Ocean youth engage and motivate communities to participate in Brand Audits and Sweeps where the goal is not to “clean it up” but instead to collect important data on the plastic items we find in the environment and hold the brands responsible accountable! The cumulative result is not only a cleaner and healthier coastline but also a raised consciousness for accessible actions people can take to stop plastic at the source.
For this year’s International Coastal Cleanup Day, on September 17th, Heirs To Our Ocean joined Surfrider Foundation San Francisco to lead our biggest, single-location, Brand Audit and Sweep yet, collecting over 2300 plastic items on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. We also gathered over 1400 cigarette butts, 84 straws and 31 shotgun shell wads in just 2 hrs! Cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles and cups, food wrappers, plastic cutlery, and straws were the most commonly collected categories of items we found this year.
Regarding brands, through our sampling collection, we found @hersheys to be the top polluting brand with 73 of their plastic items collected and recovered! It may come as no surprise that next up came @pepsico with 59 items audited and @marsglobal with 53 items audited. Since 2019, PepsiCo & Mars have been identified in the top 10 polluters through worldwide brand audits.
So, next time you are invited to do a “cleanup”, be sure to spread awareness about Brand Audits and other real solutions to plastic pollution that target this problem at the source with corporate accountability! Head to the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit Basics website to learn more about Brand Audits and how you can conduct them in your community!”