Humans, plastic and land-based pollution choke the oceans, tainting the pristine beauty of the water that makes up 71 percent of Earth.

Every year, 80 percent of land-based marine pollution pours into the sea, with typical household objects and chemicals killing over a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals.  According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), plastic debris and materials concentrate in gyres throughout the oceans. Each gyre is stationary, caught between major currents and acting as wastebaskets for the entire world’s litter. The North Pacific Gyre alone is twice the size of Texas.

But this Saturday, September 20, Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the City of Jacksonville is supporting the Ocean Conservancy Organization and joining the world for International Coastal Cleanup Day. JAX is one of several communities participating worldwide under the coordination of Ocean Conservancy and needs volunteers to contribute in the cleanup.

North_Pacific_Gyre

It’s the 29th annual cleanup by Ocean Conservancy, encouraging everyone to pick up what they throw down on the beaches. Based on data from previous cleanups, over 648,000 volunteers picked up over 12 million pounds of trash across nearly 13,000 miles, according to the 2014 Trash Free Seas Report. The United States ranked number one in cleanup initiative and Florida alone swept up 322,000 pounds of trash.

Cigarettes, plastic bags, bottles and food wrappers are just a few of the items discarded by people and swept out to sea. While marine animals consume some of the litter mistaken as prey, the rest of the trash can take several years or decades to break down.

How Long Garbage Lasts in the Ocean

Photo courtesy of the Ocean Conservation Society, data provided by NOAA

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization, many man-made products will take hundreds of years to breakdown. Some plastics will simply break into smaller particles called microplastics and mix into the sand of beaches around the world.

Working together, people can limit the amount of debris that washes out to sea, polluting our environment and harming marine animals.

JAX residents can join the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful and the City of Jacksonville at various waterway locations across Duval from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and help in the international battle against trash. Ocean Conservancy encourages everyone to volunteer.

For more information on the times and locations of the cleanup throughout Jacksonville, visit Keep Jacksonville Beautiful’s Facebook page or www.coj.net/KJB. Anyone unable to volunteer Saturday morning, but interested in contributing towards the cleanup of the oceans can visit www.oceanconservancy.org to find out how to get involved.