PADI Divers to Clean Up and Track Types of Debris

On Sept. 19, divers and like-minded volunteers will join in a global cleanup aimed at helping preserve the marine environment.

“Even trash in Kentucky eventually washes out to the sea,” says Jenny Miller Garmendia, director of Project AWARE Foundation (PAF), a nonprofit organization that conserves underwater environments through education, advocacy and action. “The challenge around the world is getting people to make the connection that even if you live far from the sea your litter can end up in the ocean.”

PADI Professionals worldwide volunteer to organize cleanups locally. Last year 10,600 divers removed 219,528 lbs (99.57 tons) of debris from over 1,000 miles of underwater terrain, an average of 25 pounds per diver.

Besides picking up a lot a trash from shorelines and underwater, a major component of International Cleanup Day is also collecting data. While collecting debris, volunteers keep track of the types of debris they find and where it is coming from.

“If all we did was clean up the beach, we’d just be cleaning up beaches forever and not be making a difference,” says Miller Garmendia. “When divers go out as volunteers and collect data, as well as the trash itself, they are having an impact in the long run in finding a solution to the problem.”

Scientists believe that the world’s largest garbage dump is in the Pacific Ocean and have named it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A big part of the debris finding its way into the oceans is made of plastic, as much as 80-90 percent. But because plastic doesn’t ever completely breakdown, scientists find small plastic fragments and dust floating in the ocean. It’s estimated that about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away each year.

Data collected by divers during International Cleanup Day is reported in the Ocean Conservancy’s Marine Debris Index demonstrating data collected and tallied by volunteers worldwide. Underwater data is also used in a special report on marine litter by the United Nations Environment Program, called Marine Litter: A Global Challenge.