Every year, volunteers with the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy pick up 6.8 million pounds of marine debris and other trash—that's roughly 17 pounds of garbage for every cleanup volunteer. It's a sad reality, but there's so much litter cluttering up our beaches and oceans that people can find anything from household appliances to syringes to construction materials clogging America's favorite vacation spots. But you can help! Here are the top 10 sources of beach litter found on U.S. beaches every year, and what you can do to stem the trashy tide.
#1: Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters
By far the most prevalent litter along coastlines—more cigarettes and cigarette butts were found than any other form of trash the Conservancy tracks, accounting for 28 percent of all the trash collected. The butts linger on beaches and shores forever because about 95 percent of a cigarette's filter is made from plastic, which never degrades. And, according to the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention program, cigarette filters are the most littered item in America, despite the fact that smoking has decreased by 28 percent over the last decade. Part of the blame for these pesky butts is being placed on indoor smoking bans that force people outside, where they ditch their cancer sticks on the sidewalks when they’re finished.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: First off, stop smoking! It damages your heart and your lungs. But if you must continue, throw the filter in a trashcan, not on the ground or out the window.