After scouring San Francisco's Ocean Beach for trash, five people gathered to see who "won" their friendly competition. The group of Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers had set up an informal system between themselves, giving points for volume and strange objects. But who really won?
"The environment... at the end of the day," James O'Connell Cooper said.
The friends were participating in Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 15, part of an international effort that's one of the largest annual volunteer events on the planet.
While O'Connell Cooper and his friends were part of one of today's cleanups, organizers are focused on holding the manufacturers of some of the more commonly found items accountable.
"We don't want to put all of the burden on consumers. It has to come from the other directions as well," Eli Saddler of OceanHealth.org said. "We need to tackle the problem at its source and we also need consumers to be aware that they have options and if they vote with their dollars, that may bring about change, too."
Saddler said San Francisco has one of the most sophisticated recycling systems in the world, but volunteers still found more than 700 pounds of trash during the volunteer event. Only a third of what is collected appeared to be recyclable and, Saddler pointed out, countries like China no longer want our waste, even if it is considered recyclable.
Saddler said that during the week of events planned around the world, Story of Stuff volunteers and members of the #breakfreefromplastic movement will team up to clean beaches, riverfronts and parks in more than 160 cities and towns.
The data that these communities generate will be compiled at both the local and global level, identifying which products and companies are most responsible for plastic waste. Results of the global survey will be released in early October.