International Coastal Cleanup Yields More Than 10 Million Pounds of Trash

Cigarettes, food packaging and plastic bottles top the list of trash collected, totaling weight of 10 Boeing 747 jumbo jets

International Coastal Cleanup Yields More Than 10 Million Pounds of Trash

Media Contact:
Katie Cline, Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications
Telephone: (202) 351-0482

May 14, 2013

Washington, DC:  The total amount of trash picked up during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup surpassed the 10 million pound mark, according to data released today – with the second highest total items reported in the Cleanup’s 27-year history. The new numbers offer a snapshot of the ocean trash found along the ocean and waterways throughout the country and world.  

The tallies were collected during the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup, the largest annual volunteer effort for the ocean. This year, while celebrating the tremendous volunteer effort, Ocean Conservancy is also stressing it is not enough to just clean it up – we need to rethink trash from beginning to end point.

The 2012 International Coastal Cleanup, by the numbers:

Total numbers:

  • More than 550,000 people (561,633) picked up more than 10 million pounds of trash (10,149,988) along nearly 20,000 miles of coastlines (17,719)
  • 3rd all-time highest in total pounds collected since 1986
  • 2nd all-time highest in total items reported since 1986

Volunteers found:

  • Total trash equal to the weight of 41 blue whales
  • Total trash equal to the weight 10 Boeing 747 jumbo jets
  • Enough beverage bottles that, when stacked end to end, are equal to:
    • 1,000 Empire State Buildings
    • 2,408 Space Needles
    • 1,368 Eiffel Towers
    • Distance from New York to Washington, DC
  • Enough disposable cigarette lighters to start 178,557,500 campfires
  • Enough trash to fill Disney’s Epcot ball

Graphics and state-specific information are available here. Contact Katie Cline at (202) 351-0482 or for additional photos or video.

“More than 10 million pounds of trash – that’s an astounding amount,” said Nicholas Mallos, Ocean Conservancy’s marine debris specialist and conservation biologist. “Whether it’s the smallest bottle cap to the weirdest finds, like the 117 mattresses collected, every piece of trash affects the health of our ocean, and subsequently our economy, environment and health.”

Everyone can be a part of the solution for trash free seas. Here are three things you can do right now to help tackle trash:

  1. Pledge to fight trash: What would happen if 10,000 people decided not to make as much trash for one month? We could reduce the trash on Earth by over 1 million pounds. Take the pledge to help turn the tide on trash.
  2. Download Rippl, Ocean Conservancy’s free mobile application that helps you make simple, sustainable lifestyle choices.
  3. Mark your calendar for September 21 so that you can be part of the next International Coastal Cleanup.

Ocean Conservancy has been organizing the Cleanup for 27 years, and while picking up the trash that’s already on our beaches and waterways is an important component to fighting marine debris, it’s not enough.  

“Trash doesn’t start and stop at the trash can, and out of sight doesn’t mean out of our ocean,” Mallos said. “From product creation to disposal, we must tackle trash at every point. The items we use – or don’t use – have a lasting impact. While solutions are built on individual actions of people, organizations and companies, it will take a collective movement to make a lasting difference.”

It’s been just over six months since Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast and more than two years since the Japan tsunami. These unpreventable events resulted in increased marine debris along our coasts. Ocean Conservancy has helped organize cleanups in some of the hardest hit areas, including Jones Beach, New York. Mallos has traveled throughout the West Coast and Japan to help with tsunami debris research and collaboration.

The Cleanup is part of Ocean Conservancy’s larger strategy for Trash Free Seas and is one of the many ways the organization is helping find answers and solutions for marine debris. Other Ocean Conservancy-led efforts include building a Trash Free Seas Alliance® of industry, science and conservation leaders committed to reducing waste; supporting a scientific working group at the world’s leading ecological think tank, The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), to identify the scope and impact of marine debris on ocean ecosystems; and launching a mobile app, Rippl, to help people make sustainable lifestyle choices that limit their trash impact.

In the past 27 years of Cleanups, volunteers found:

  • 57 million cigarette butts, which, if stacked vertically, would be as tall as 3,867 Empire State Buildings.  
  • Enough glass and plastic bottles to provide every resident of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix a cold beverage on a hot summer day.
  • Almost 10 million plastic bags (9,806,905), which required 1,176 barrels of oil to produce.
  • More than 1 million (1,017,444) diapers – enough to put one on every child born in Japan last year.
  • Enough cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons to host a picnic for 2.3 million people.


The Coca-Cola Company has supported Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup for the past 18 years. Last year, Coca-Cola activated a global employee engagement campaign to encourage participation in the Cleanup. Over 24,000 Coca-Cola system associates, their friends and families in 27 countries volunteered, cleaning more than 1,300 miles of coastline. As part of its commitment to address global climate change, Bank of America has supported the Cleanup since 2002, with thousands of employees participating in Cleanup events all around the world. Other national sponsors include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Altria Group, Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, Landshark Lager, Glad, Brunswick Public Foundation, The Walt Disney Company, CVS Caremark, Teva and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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