SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Volunteers around the world collected nearly 9 million pounds of cigarettes, bottles and other trash during a coastal cleanup campaign last year, according to a report released Tuesday.
The garbage was picked up by nearly 600,000 volunteers who scoured more than 20,000 miles of coastline on Sept. 17 for the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup, according to the Ocean Conservancy, which organized the 26th annual event.
The top five types of trash found were cigarettes, beverage lids, plastic bottles, plastic bags and food containers. Volunteers found 94,000 balloons, 267,000 items of clothing and 940,000 pieces of food packaging, the report said.
"Our volunteers picked up enough food packaging for a person to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years," Ocean Conservancy CEO Vikki Spruill said in a statement. "Ocean trash is human-generated, preventable and one of the biggest threats to our ocean and waterways."
Spruil said people should take responsibility for their trash by discarding it properly and using reusable bags and containers.
Thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles and birds are injured or killed by ocean debris every year, conservationists say.
Over the past 26 years, the annual cleanup effort has led to the removal of 153 million pounds of garbage from beaches, coastlines and waterways around the world, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
In addition to ordinary litter, the Pacific Coast of North America could soon be hit with debris from the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last year.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said recently that tsunami debris could reach Hawaii this winter and the western United States and Canada in 2013 and 2014.