Cost of West Coast Marine Debris Cleanup Exceeds $500 Million Annually

Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Blog, Coastal Debris | 0 comments

aquatic debris - EPA photoAccording to a recent EPA-sponsored study (pdf), the annual cost of marine debris cleanup programs on the west coast of the U.S. is likely more than a half a billion dollars. This amounts to approximately $13 per year for every man woman and child in the coastal communities with responsibilities for cleaning the coastline. The report found no “economies of scale” with both larger and smaller communities faces with similar per capita outlays.

The report, dating from September of this past year, surveyed typical coastal communities of all shapes and sizes, and added up the annual costs of trash management for six main types of activities:

  • Beach and waterway cleanup
  • Street sweeping
  • Installation of storm‐water capture devices
  • Storm drain cleaning and maintenance
  • Manual cleanup of litter
  • Public anti‐littering campaigns

When the results were compiled and analyzed the results were astonishing. Indeed, the enormous costs led to a simple, if understated, conclusion from the project team that performed the study: “Such costs…make a compelling argument for accelerating the search for ways and means of reducing trash streams contributing to marine debris.”

The report cites the National Academy of Sciences which in 1975 determined that “approximately 1.4 billion pounds of trash and other persistent solid material was being tossed into the world’s oceans each year, where it becomes marine debris, much of it ending up on beaches.” Meanwhile, the report notes, “debris is known to threaten sensitive marine and coastal habitats, harm hundreds of species of marine fauna, to interfere with navigation, degrade ocean habitats, cost millions of dollars in lost fishing and tourism revenue, and threaten human health and safety.”

Therefore, the report states, “Until clean up is feasible and the flow of debris into the oceans is stemmed, it is essential that all practical measures be undertaken to reduce the amount of debris entering the ocean each year.”

 

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