Soundkeeper hosts cleanups year round – we’re on the water every week pulling trash from Lake Union, and even in the winter we have valiant groups of volunteers who brave the drizzle to make sure the beaches of Puget Sound are free from plastic bottles and cigarette butts. Cleaning up marine debris is truly a team effort, and that community spirit is at the heart of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the largest worldwide volunteer effort to remove trash from our waterways and coasts.

Marine debris isn’t purely a cosmetic issue. Ocean trash threatens our economy, our wildlife, and our food supply – many animals eat plastic when they find it, absorbing toxins that are transferred up the food chain. Cleanups are the last line of defense against these threats, and while not always glamorous, they are one of the most important steps we can take. As the only species that produces and uses plastic, we are the problem. But we can also be the solution.

Trash collected by a volunteer.Last year, over 600,000 volunteers participated in ICC globally, collecting over 12 million pounds of trash. As the regional organizer for ICC cleanups in Puget Sound, Soundkeeper supported 15 events that involved nearly 500 volunteers. This year, we’re set to beat that record, with 24 events scheduled throughout the Sound. While the main day of cleanup is September 20th, we are excited to be able to facilitate events all month as part of the Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH series, presented nationally by Toyota, and thanks to the support of our local sponsor Brown Bear Car Wash.

The impact of ICC lives on long after the cleanups are over. The best way to keep plastic and other trash out of the water is to stop it at the source, and the Ocean Conservancy, Soundkeeper and other groups are working daily on this issue. The data collected at ICC events provides information that can inform policy solutions and tell us where to focus our efforts. It also raises local awareness and brings together people and organizations who care about the health of our waterways.

If you want to join us for this year’s International Coastal Cleanup in Puget Sound, head over to our events page – You can find more information on where we’ll be and when, and choose a cleanup in your area. Thanks to the support of great partners, we have events in all parts of the Sound. If there isn’t one yet, we happily provide assistance with organization and supplies – contact Kathryn ( for more information.

Graphic courtesy of the Ocean Conservancy.