Of Butts and Bags: Cleanup Data Trends 2017-19

2019 was a BIG year for cleanups across Connecticut. More of you turned out than any year since CFE/Save the Sound became the official Connecticut coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup back in 2002, and together we removed more than three tons of trash from beaches and riverbanks. We are looking forward to building on these results in 2020. In the meantime, we combed through the data you’ve gathered over the past three years and found a whole bunch of reasons to be optimistic—and a couple dark spots.

So what did we find?

Every category of trash is on the decline. Every kind of plastic, with the notable and concerning exception of tiny plastics, is trending downward. In fact, most of the categories you found more of this year were either very small (cigarette butts, tiny plastics) or very large (tires, appliances). Abandoned fishing gear and tiny pieces of plastic have emerged as the greatest threats to wildlife (and to us), even as plastic bags and styrofoam containers are becoming harder to find. For more trends, check out the infographics below and read this article in Zip06.

Several of the most positive trends are positively correlated with legislative victories in the Long Island Sound region. Plastic bags were recently banned in both New York and Connecticut, and the intentional release of balloons was banned in Suffolk County. Over the same time period, these categories of trash have been trending downward significantly. Let’s use this data to help inform, guide, and shape new laws and environmental protections during the Connecticut legislative session starting February 5. And remember…

Throw away less this winter, pick up less next summer!

Anthony Allen, Save the Sound

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