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May 30, 2020

This page last modified:
March 21, 2001

Origins of Coastal Cleanup

by Pam Wingrove

University of Florida/Monroe County Cooperative Extension

Florida Bay Education Project

It's that time again! No, I don't mean hurricane season. It is time for the Annual International Coastal Cleanup sponsored by the Center for Marine Conservation. This year marks the 13th celebration of our coasts. This year the big event will be held Saturday, September 18th.

In a column several weeks ago, ideas for how each person can get involved in conserving the environment of the Florida Keys were suggested. One way to help is by participating in the Coastal Cleanup. It costs nothing, significant things are accomplished, and usually free refreshments are involved. The Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) began Coastal Cleanup in 1986 on the coast of Texas. CMC patterned this program after one initially developed in the state of Oregon. There were 2,800 volunteers involved in that first effort. According to CMC statistics, over 300,000 volunteers from 55 U.S. states and territories and more than 100 countries participate each year.

Coastal Cleanup was founded to address the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, called MARPOL. This consists of a group of actions that each country must agree to piece by piece. One part, called Annex V, relates to ocean dumping from ships. Those countries that agree to or ratify this part of MARPOL institute restrictions on dumping of debris from ships in its waters. Currently more than 82 countries have signed on to Annex V.

The Cleanup would certainly be worthwhile if people only turned out and picked up garbage along the coasts on this one day, but there is much more to this effort. CMC asks volunteers to collect data on the garbage. Information on types, numbers and location of debris collected will be recorded. With this information, sources and distribution of the pollution can be assessed.

This local action has wide-ranging impacts. Information gained from the Cleanup is used in educational programs and may encourage actions including legislation to address marine pollution.

Although the Cleanup is organized locally, support from the CMC includes gloves, trash bags and report cards. Coordinators in the Florida Keys make the event happen here. These volunteers make sure everyone has an assignment, materials and yes, refreshments!

Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 18th. By participating in the Coastal Cleanup you help conserve the natural beauty of the Florida Keys and your efforts are magnified by other volunteers around the world. To contact your local coordinator call Denise Washick with the Center for Marine Conservation at 1-800-CMC-FLOR or for more information on this research, contact the Florida Bay Education Project at 305-852-3592. Additional information on a variety of topics is available from the University of Florida/Monroe County Cooperative Extension Service, 5100 College Road, Stock Island or call at 292-4501; fax: 292-4415; email: or visit our web site Our services are free and available to all without regard to race, color, sex, or national origin.

The Florida Bay Education Project is an archived site. For more information go to NOAA's South Florida Ecosystem Education Project at