Every year, Let's Do It World organizes and celebrates World CleanUp Day on the third Saturday of September. It is a day that promotes volunteerism and clean up events around the nation, gathering over 2 million volunteers in 2019 (National CleanUp Day, 2020)! Many volunteer events focus on beach and waterway clean up. This year World CleanUp Day falls on Saturday, September 19th.
Why is World CleanUp Day important?
Mismanaged trash can easily travel through rivers and oceans, and often accumulates on beaches and coastal environments. Trash has habitat, chemical, and biological impacts on the environment. Many of these impacts are caused mostly by plastic trash and the toxic chemicals it contains.
As trash accumulates in the environment, habitat structures are often altered, especially in rivers and oceans. Oxygen levels are depleted, and light levels can be reduced in underlying waters (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2020). These changes directly affect species that are dependent on these environments for shelter and food.
Bioaccumulative and toxic contaminants, such as PCBs and pesticides, also accumulate from plastic aquatic trash. In fact, “aquatic plastic debris has been found to accumulate contaminants at concentrations that are orders of magnitude (thousands to millions of times) greater than the surrounding environment!” (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2020). Plastics are able to absorb dangerous chemicals from the environment, introducing contaminants into the food chain and to humans who eat seafood. Contaminants from plastic can also be released to the environment as plastic breaks down, resulting in ultraviolet radiation and weathering.
Aquatic plastic debris also has negative biological consequences, especially on marine organisms. It has been found that plastic has harmfully affected about 267 species globally, “including 86% of sea turtles, 44% of seabirds, and 43% of marine mammals,” (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2020). These wildlife are mainly affected by ingestion of debris and entanglement, as well as ingestion of contaminants from plastic particles.
It is thus now more important than ever to care for the environment and species harmed by the toxic waste we produce. What are your plans for World CleanUp Day today?
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“Saturday, September 19, 2020.” National CleanUp Day, www.nationalcleanupday.org/.
“Impacts of Mismanaged Trash.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 30 July 2020, www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/impacts-mismanaged-trash.