7,925 reasons to join a Cleanup

As country coordinator for India, I would like to share the message that I just received from Allison, at Ocean Conservancy, Washington.

Dear loyal ocean supporter,

I recently spent a week sailing through the Gulf of Maine as a guest scientist with Rozalia Project. We traveled 200 miles, visiting seven beaches on four different islands.

Can you guess what we found at every stop? Trash. Food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles and caps, foam cups and plates. All told, we found 7,925 pieces of trash.

That’s 7,925 reasons why we need your help in the fight against ocean trash. Friend, will you join us at an International Coastal Cleanup near you?

You can make a difference whether you live at the beach or hundreds of miles inland because trash travels. Carried by the wind, river currents or human hands, everyday trash makes its way to even the most remote of places.

I pulled a food wrapper, a cigarette butt and a sunglasses strap out of the water while sailing 50 miles off the coast of Portland, Maine. And we found bottles with French labels and markings, indicating that these items may have started their journey in Canada.

Ocean trash is truly a global problem—but it has local impacts and local solutions. You can be part of the solution, loyal ocean supporter. Join a Cleanup in your state today!


Thanks for taking the first step.

Allison Schutes, Trash Free Seas Coordinator See you at the water,Allison Schutes
Trash Free Seas Coordinator
Ocean Conservancy

P.S. Want to get started now? Take the pledge to help turn the tide on ocean trash.


Report on 2012 International Coastal Cleanup

Report on 2012 International Coastal Cleanup

 Data from the 27th annual International Coastal Cleanup®.  Volunteers from all over the world gathered together to help provide the latest update on what they found along the beaches and waterways that’s impacting our ocean.  The Cleanup is one part of Ocean Conservancy’s overall strategy for Trash Free Seas®.  

  • There’s a lot of trash on our beaches and waterways – more than 10 million pounds.

–        In last year’s Cleanup, more than 550,000 people (561,633) picked up more than ten million pounds of trash (10,149,988) along nearly 20,000 miles of coastlines (17,719).

  • Ocean trash is a threat to our economy, environment and health – and is here to stay unless we change our practices.

–        It’s a threat to our economies

–        It’s a threat to wildlife and habitat: Ocean trash can entrap and strangle ocean wildlife, many of which are listed as threatened or endangered. Also, if animals eat ocean trash they can absorb high concentrations of toxins. This has been seen in both seabirds and sea turtles, where high levels of contaminants in the animals’ blood were attributed to ingested plastic particles. Ocean trash is also a threat to ecologically critical, yet sensitive marine habitat.

–        It’s a threat to our health and food safety: Toxic chemicals are transferred up the food chain as large ocean predators — many of which we eat — accumulate toxins eaten or absorbed by smaller fish and plants. The concentration of toxins in these predators, such as tuna and mahi-mahi, increase considerably as we move up the food chain.

  • Future generations will be the ones dealing with our trash.  We think this can and will look different in the future. By working together to find solutions, we can take significant steps forward in understanding and preventing ocean trash.
    • Estimated time it takes for these products to break down:
      • Fishing line: 600 years
      • Plastic Bottles: 450 years
      • Aluminum cans: 200 years
      • Plastics bags: 1-20 years
  • Ocean Conservancy is tackling trash at every point in the lifecycle to create healthier beaches and a healthier ocean to benefit the environment and people.

–        The Cleanup is an essential component of keeping beaches clean after trash has already ended up in the wrong place. –        Rippl, Ocean Conservancy’s new mobile app helps address trash at the starting point, even before it’s created.

–        The Trash Free Seas Alliance focuses its efforts on material design and use

–        An Ocean Conservancy-supported scientific working group is studying marine debris to better understand its impacts, and inform actions to prevent it.

  • Every piece of trash that is picked up during the Cleanup should be a challenge for change.  Trash simply shouldn’t be in the ocean or on a beach.  Questions we should think about for every item picked up: How did it get there?  How can we prevent it from happening again?

–        Whether it is by changing your habits to create less trash, or pushing industries and governments to find alternative uses, we must work together to find a solution.

–        We have a responsibility all year long to reduce, remove and reinvent.  From product development to disposal, we all have a role to play.

10 Things you can do for Trash Free Seas

10 Things you can do for Trash Free Seas

  • We can’t do it alone.  While solutions are built on individual actions of people, organizations and companies, it will take a collective movement to make the biggest difference.  We need more volunteers than ever to join our movement and make a bigger difference.  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:

–        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 a million pounds. Take the pledge to help turn the tide on trash. –        Download Rippl, Ocean Conservancy’s free mobile application that helps you make simple, sustainable lifestyle choices. –        Mark your calendar for September 21 so that you can be part of the next International Coastal Cleanup.

  • What you use, eat and drink in your everyday life could end up in the ocean. Every year our Top 10 list includes items such as cigarettes, utensils and beverage containers – trash that comes from our everyday lives and households. Items that are not only unnatural to the ocean, but are dangerous to the wildlife that depend on healthy ecosystems.
  • Our vision is for Trash Free Seas.  This problem is human-generated and preventable.  Keeping our ocean free from trash is one of the most tangible ways we can all make the ocean more resilient. From product design to proper trash disposal, we all have a role to play in keeping our ocean clean and free of debris.

–        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.



Did you know there is plastic in the milk you drink?

A Collective Effort to Save the Indian Cow from Plastic

What is The Plastic Cow?

In India, one of the most striking images is the cow wandering on the road. In cities, towns and villages numerous cows and bulls sit or wander peacefully, settling down to chew the cud. It gives the impression of a society living together peacefully with animals. The holy cow, the Mother of India is revered by all and, in most states, is not allowed to be slaughtered.

India has an open garbage system, which means open garbage bins on the roads overflowing with stinking waste. Dogs, monkeys, pigs, rats and cows eat whatever they can find to survive. The numbers of stray dogs, rats and monkeys are equal to the amount of garbage on which they feed and multiply.

In cities and towns, large numbers of cows on the roads eat from garbage bins, foraging for fruit and vegetable leftovers, anything edible and smelling like food.

Since plastic bags have invaded our lives, almost all garbage and food waste is disposed in plastic bags. These bags spill out either on the road or from municipality dustbins. Since the plastic bags are knotted at the mouth, cows, unable to undo the knot, eat food leftovers including the plastic. Slowly, over time, they build up a huge amount of plastic inside their stomachs. It gets entangled with different materials and it becomes hard like cement inside their rumens, which is the first belly of the cow.

What are these cows doing on the road anyway?

There are many small “urban” dairy farms in cities and big towns. Dairy owners send their animals out on the road to forage for food as there is no green grass and little or no space to keep the animals at home. Still the owner milks his cows. They scavenge between the garbage bins, the vegetable markets and hotels and finally end up on the municipality garbage landfills outside the town.

The Holy Cow Reduced to a Dying Scavenger 

At present there is a ban on plastic bags up to 40 microns in many states. But no one has focused on the hazardous effects of plastic on the animals and their right to live a life free of plastics.  The noble cow has become a scavenger.

Karuna Society for Animals & Nature

‘Karuna Society for Animals & Nature’ is based at Puttaparthi, in Andhra Pradesh, 70 Kms from Anantapur.  In December 2010, Karuna Society received 36 stray cattle from Anantapur town for permanent custody. Soon after their arrival one of the cows died. The post mortem conducted by our veterinary surgeon revealed that the animal’s rumen was full of plastic. After examination of all the animals, he advised us to start surgeries to remove plastics from their rumens to save their lives.

From the moment we received the “plastic cow” from Anantapur town, we realized that there are hundreds of cattle on the roads feeding on garbage, including plastic. They are sentenced to a slow and cruel death if they do not receive help in time. This is a cruelty most people are not aware of when they see the animals “peacefully” walking on the street. Think about big cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore where tens of thousands of animals are walking around with their bellies full of plastic.

It has been a life changing experience for all of us who witnessed the surgery and the removal of plastics and other waste items from the rumen. We are horrified by the suffering of animals caused by the human garbage system and the problem of letting cows and bulls loose on the road.


52kg of plastic is removed from the rumen

The Unobserved Disaster – The Plastic Effect on Wildlife

Along India’s rivers, there are thousands of temples, villages and towns, where untreated sewage and garbage flows in the water. Hundreds of kilometers away, garbage and plastic are deposited at places where wildlife feeds and drinks. Many animals die a painful and unobserved death. An elephant was found dead with 750 kg plastic inside its stomach. Turtles, fish, birds, wild pigs—no animal can escape!!

Pradeep Nath from VSPCA (Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals), Vishakapatnam has for many years been involved in rescuing endangered turtles and other wildlife and his observation shows that many animals suffer from plastic ingestion or get entangled in plastic bags and suffocate to death.

Public Interest Litigation

The Plastic Cow activists filed a case in the Supreme Court of Delhi, for animal’s rights and the complete ban of plastic bags.

M/s VSPCA, Vishakapatnam, M/s Karuna Society for Animals and Nature, Puttaparthi, and three individuals Pradeep Nath, Clementien Pauws and Rukmini Sekhar are the litigants in this case.

The respondents in this case are the Central Government and all the States of India, through their Animal Husbandry Departments, including the Animal Welfare Board of India.

While there may be a couple of cases pending asking for a total ban on plastic bags as an environmentally hazardous pollutant, this team has specifically filed it as an animal rights litigation. This is clearly a case of the state violating its own laws where the Constitution guarantees the right to life to all living beings and yet, the plastic bag issue is not being either monitored or implemented by the state. We have also asked for a better garbage disposal system where there is no interface between animals and plastic.  As the case will unfold over time, many more aspects can be brought to the attention of the Court and the public.

On May 7, 2012, the Supreme Court announced in its first hearing that it may be considering a total ban on plastic bags. This made huge national and international news.

Excerpts from the Economic Times of India

8 May, 2012, 05.10 AM IST, Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN

Plastic bag threat more serious than atom bomb: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: Excessive use of plastic bags and their unregulated disposal has been choking lakes, ponds and urban sewerage systems, the Supreme Court said on Monday while warning that it posed a threat more serious than the atom bomb for the next generation.

This observation from a bench of Justices GS Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya came on a PIL filed by two Andhra Pradesh-based NGOs drawing the court’s attention to 30-60 kg of plastic bags recovered from the stomachs of cows because of irresponsible disposal of plastic bags and defunct municipal waste collection system.

The court issued notice to the Centre and State Governments on the PIL seeking ban on use of plastic bags in municipal areas which did not have a prompt garbage collection, segregation and disposal system. The NGOs said absence of prompt garbage collection, segregation and disposal system allowed cows to rummage through garbage bins and eat foodstuff disposed of in plastic bags, which get stuck in their stomach.

But the bench wanted to address the larger questions arising from indiscriminate use of plastic bags, which not only posed a grave threat to nature and environment but also to the human race itself. It suggested that the petitioner make the manufacturers and a television channel, which has been running a campaign against use of plastic, parties to the PIL for a wider scrutiny of the important issue.

“All of us are watching how our lakes, ponds and urban sewerage systems are getting choked by plastic bags. We want to expand the scope of this petition. Unless we examine a total ban on plastic bags or put in place a system for manufacturers mandating them to collect back all plastic bags, the next generation will be threatened with something more serious than the atom bomb,” Justices Singhvi and Mukhopadhaya said.

Appearing for NGOs Karuna Society for Animal and Nature and Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals, senior advocate Shyam Divan said the problem was more acute in urban areas where people had a habit of disposing leftover food in plastic bags in municipal bins.

“Apart from the plastic completely choking the digestive system of the cow and causing excruciating pain to the animal, plastic residues enter the human food chain through dairy and animal products,” he added.

The petitioners sought following the directions from the court:

* Prohibit or phase out in a time-bound manner open garbage disposal system and remove open garbage receptacles

* Implement door-to-door garbage collection and prevent animals from moving around garbage storage facilities

* Municipalities must segregate all plastic waste from other waste

* States must issue directions prohibiting use, sale and disposal of plastic bags in all municipal areas

* Provide animal shelters and treat cows and other animals suffering from stomach ache due to ingestion of plastic.

Acknowledgement: The Karuna Society for Animals & Nature


How an Indian daily wage labourer became a marine conservationist

This is the story of how a daily wage labourer, in the Gujarat Ambuja Cement factory at Bhavnagar, became a marine conservationist.

First Olive Ridley Rescue in year 2013

In the year 1997 Mr. Dineshgiri Goswami was working as a labourer at Ambuja Cement Company’s jetty on the sea shore near Kodinar and he saw a group of foreigners and Indians taking pictures of a dead Whale-shark, Mr. Dineshgiri was fond of getting his photo with foreign people, but the leader of that team Mr. Mike Pandey explained that they were not just taking a movie of the dead Whale-shark, but were filming a documentary for whale-shark conservation. The Whale-shark had been killed by the fishermen, and it is the endangered marine mammals species. The purpose of making the film was to make the world aware that this marine species will soon be extinct.

Dineshgiri Goswami though a poorly literate (only up to 5th primary standard in Gujarati medium) person, was deeply moved by this and discussed the incident with other nature lovers in the area. He decided to start a marine conservation movement and named the NGO Prakruti Parivaar Trust of Kodinar, which many people joined as  volunteers.  Being poorly literate, unfortunately no records of the work done by the club were kept. In 2004, a computer engineer, Jignesh Gohil joined this environment conservation movement and has been maintaining data and inputs the same on their website. In 2004 Dinesh renamed the NGO as “Prakruti Nature Club of Kodinar” (PNC). Earlier they had covered the  coast between Diu and Somnath but since 2004 with more volunteers joining the NGO they extended their activities from Diu to Dwarka.

Goswami’s first rescue took place in 2004 when the forest department got news of a whale shark that was struggling to free itself from a fishing net. He went to the site and with the help of local fishermen cut the fish loose without harming it. He has taken part in at least 300 rescues along the coast of Gujarat as a volunteer for the whale shark conservation program initiated by the Gujarat forest department and the Wildlife Trust of India in 2004. The program has succeeded in saving more than 350 whales so far.

In Jan 2013 , PNC, as a member of the Turtle Action Group of India (TAG) organized a TAG work shop at Jamnagar. Read more about TAG at http://seaturtlesofindia.org   and   http://saveourseas.com/projects/turtle_diaries

On  7 July the PNC got message that an injured Olive Ridley turtle has washed up at Chorwad beach in Veraval Taluka. They found the turtle was injured and too weak to walk, so they took the turtle to their workshop at Kodinar and informed forest dept. at Junagadh and Veraval. They were told that the Forest Dept. have no knowledge of turtles, so the PNC could treat the turtle themselves. With guidance from Dr. Kartik Shankar (TAG) and Annie Kurian (WWF-India) the turtle was nursed back to good health and released into sea.

Read also:


Country Report on ‘MARINE DEBRIS’

In June 2013, the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Coordinators of ten Asia-Pacific countries were invited by Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), to attend a workshop on ‘Marine Debris’, at Geoje, Korea.

The participating countries were:   Bangladesh,  Brunei,  China,  India,  Japan,  Philippines,  Singapore,  Taiwan,  Thailand,  Vietnam

We were asked to prepare a report on the ‘Marine Debris’ situation in our respective countries.

A copy of my report is at Country Report – INDIA_ slideshow format

Read about how Ramdas Kokare made Dapoli town “plastic free”

Ramdas Kokare was Chief Officer of Dapoli Municipality in 2010. He decided that he would make Dapoli ‘plastic free’. Read below how he did it. Interestingly, Dapoli continues to be free of plastics even today. Kokare is currently the Chief Officer of Ausa town, close to Solapur.

We need to replicate his efforts, and our next target is Lonavla

 The Times of India

Dapoli sets example by shunning plastic

Nikhil Deshmukh, TNN | Jun 18, 2012, 04.26 AM IST

PUNE: Dapoli’s example of doing away with plastic carry bags and minimizing the use of plastic items is likely to be replicated by local self-government bodies across the state.

The tourist destination, some 185 km from Pune, in Ratnagiri district, decided to shun plastic two years ago. The model comprised segregation of plastic waste into items for processing and others that cannot be processed. The second stage included replacing plastic carry bags with those that are less than 50 microns thick, with bio-degradable paper bags and recycling of the remaining plastic waste.

Valsa R Nair Singh, secretary, department of environment, said Dapoli’s initiative is a major success. “I have written to the ministry of environment and forests requesting it to widely promote the experiment so that other local self-government bodies can replicate it. I have informed all local self-government bodies in the state about the project and asked them to consider the model,” she said.

The model started in August 2010 in Dapoli tehsil and the use of plastic carry bags has been completely stopped. Local businessman Prasad Phatak said, “Civic officials first came up with alternatives and then asked us to stop using plastic bags. The council has also asked retailers and citizens to reduce the use of carry bags.” Service providers were asked to discourage tourists from using plastic material and dispose of the waste in bins provided by the council instead of littering. “We realized how clean we can keep our town,” he added.

When the initiative started, some 10 tonne plastic waste was collected every day. The council invited local non-governmental organizations, activists, businessmen and colleges to spread awareness about plastic and its threat to environment. When 300 students of a local college were asked to conduct a survey, they found that one tonne plastic waste was produced by the town each day.

Ramdas Kokare, chief officer of Dapoli Municipal Council, was instrumental in making the model work. He first observed the source of waste and decided to segregate plastic waste into recyclable and non-recyclable. Plastic carry bags of less than 50 micron thickness were in the non-recyclable category, while bottles, packaging material of food items and wrappers were to be recycled for further usage.

Kokare said, “People were used to plastic carry bags, and we decided to change this habit among the locals. Instead of imposing a ban on plastic bags with less than 50 micron size, I decided to introduce paper bags as an alternative. They decompose easily, do not affect the environment and its production process is eco-friendly. Local self-help groups were roped in to produce paper bags and some awareness campaigns organized in August 2010. Once retail shop owners, cloth merchants and businessmen realized that the plastic ban can be implemented without their business getting affected, they cooperated.”

Once the thin plastic carry bags went out of circulation, bottles, wrappers and packaging material were collected by the civic body. “We have already floated a tender of Rs 2.5 lakh to procure a machine that would crush plastic items and produce plastic granules, which can be used in road construction. The crushed plastic increases the strength and life of the roads,” Kokare said.

If you wish to read more details about the project objectives and implementation, see Plastic Free_ Dapoli

Results of ICC 2012 as compiled by Ocean Conservancy, Washington DC

The results of the ‘International Coastal Cleanup 2012’ is now available.

“The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each fall during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup®.”

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

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:


–          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

You can download a copy of the 2012 trash index results at ICC 2013 Trash-free seas



Vision for a Healthy Ocean

Ocean Conservancy works to keep the ocean healthy, to keep us healthy.

You can make the difference by not discarding trash indiscriminately

Said the seal to the turtle:”Be my friend, and please help me save our environment”

Double Your Impact

GYRE Expedition Provides Opportunity for Marine Debris Research, Wildlife Sightings

As recounted, in his blog, by 
Most people visit the small town of Seward, Alaska, to take a half-day glacier and wildlife cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. I arrived in Seward to board the R/V Norseman to depart for Expedition GYRE.

Organized by the Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum, our 14-member team comprised of scientists, artists and filmmakers has a shared vision: We want to establish a new dialogue on marine debris from the nexus of science, art and education and devise strategies for disseminating information to broad audiences, globally.

The scale and magnitude of Alaska’s marine debris problem is unlike any other I’ve experienced. The state’s 45,000-mile coastline has myriad coves and pocket beaches that capture massive quantities of debris, underscoring the fact that even the most isolated areas of our planet are not immune to the problems of ocean trash.

This expedition affords me the opportunity to obtain quantitative and qualitative data on the most persistent forms of debris plaguing the Alaskan wilderness and compare it to data I’ve collected at other beaches around the world.

From Port Seward, we motored for almost 12 hours out of Resurrection Bay and along the Kenai Peninsula, which gave us exquisite views of the Bear and Aialik glaciers. Calm waters allowed us to conduct prime wildlife spotting from the bow of the Norseman.

My first Alaskan marine mammal sighting was a small group of Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli). Their sleek black and white torpedo-shaped bodies swiftly darted from the starboard side of the Norseman and kept pace riding our bow for almost 20 minutes.

Although I’ve witnessed this phenomenon countless times, watching these majestic animals glide effortlessly along the water’s surface just inches from the boat is resplendent. As quickly as they appeared, they were gone—and for good reason: The porpoise were replaced by another black-and-white predator, the killer whale (Orcinus orca). The male’s iconic, 6-foot-tall dorsal fin cut through the waves alongside a female as they charged Norseman’s bow. Unfortunately the majestic pair peeled off and out of sight, but the brief encounter had me yearning for more.

Our wildlife encounters continued along the entire Kenai Peninsula and included sea otters, bald eagles, black-legged kittiwakes, guillemots and my first ever spotting of a horned puffin. The day’s sightings concluded with a pair of humpbacks (Megaptera noveangliae) that leisurely crossed our wake just outside Morning Cove.

The Norseman motored into Tonsina Bay just after Alaska’s midnight-setting sun. Darkness here is relative, and a twilight remains throughout the few hours of nighttime, essentially creating 24 hours of daylight. At 1 a.m., I finally called it a day and settled into my bunk. The sun, along with the team, will rise early to deploy for Gore Point.

Expedition GYRE is off to a magnificent start.

Sea otter
Early light at Morning Cove.
Northern fulmar seconds before splash-down off Afognak Island.
Horned puffin floating amongst pod of feeding fin whales just after sunrise.
Humpback mother and calf spouting in Shelikof Strait.
Humpback mother and calf spouting in Shelikof Strait.
Sunset at midnight on our first night.
Sampling bottle caps for origin on a pocket beach on Shuyak Island
The Norseman.
Port of departure in Seward
Beautiful Arctic sunset
Upper Trail Lake at Moose Pass
Massive whale skull washed ashore; note 22-inch tire for scale.
Nick Mallos and Norseman