• 04.05.12

The Top 10 Items Washing Up On Our Shores

What’s going to be harshing your buzz at the beach this summer? A new survey of garbage (made while they were cleaning it up, don’t worry) gives a good idea of all the broken lightbulbs you’ll need to avoid.

There is a lot of trash in the ocean–so much that a massive trash vortex is swirling around in the North Pacific Ocean, Method is working on an entire ocean plastic supply chain for its detergent bottles, and researchers sailing in the aforementioned trash vortex have counted tens of thousands of pieces of plastic. If you’ve ever wondered what kinds of trash are washing up on our scenic beaches, the Ocean Conservancy has answers.


The top 10 items found during the organization’s International Coastal Cleanup, which asks hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the world to clean up ocean trash, shouldn’t be too surprising–they’re mostly the kinds of items you might expect to find on an average city street (litter on the street often ends up in waterways). Some other interesting facts from the cleanup: Cleanup volunteers found $45,489.15 worth of cans and glass containers; enough lightbulbs to replace every light on the Eiffel Tower (that’s 24,384 bulbs); enough clothing for every audience member at the London 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony (266,997 items); and enough food packaging to get breakfast, lunch, and dinner takeout for 858 years (940,227 items).

Next year’s statistics may be a little different. The devastating tsunami in Japan swept up to 25 million tons of debris out to sea, including cars, refrigerators, houses, and even entire gas stations. Nobody is entirely sure where it will end up, but it’s likely that at least some could wash up in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Big objects will be left for professional removal, but coastal cleanup participants may find themselves collecting smaller items. At least the objects probably won’t be radioactive.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.