On a rainy day in September, a group of Soundkeeper staff nearly tipped a canoe into very cold water. For a team of water enthusiasts, this was a rare occurrence – we like to think that we’re relatively savvy on the water. We were paddling the Nooksack River with North Sound Baykeeper to collect large scale marine debris. In our defense, our tippy canoe was weighted down by over one hundred pounds of trash which does make a difference when trying to maneuver quickly around river bends. After several near-capsizes, we successfully reached Ferndale and filled a truck bed with nearly 1,000 pounds of river debris, including half of a derelict jet ski.

Students from the International Community School work hard to remove a buried tire

This was one of 26 Puget Sound area cleanups completed this fall to support the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). The ICC is a unique marine debris cleanup effort in that volunteers document each item collected on detailed data cards. This information is compiled to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the types of waste entering our waterbodies, worldwide, and can be used to inform specific solutions to waste reduction. Last year, nearly 600,000 participants collected over 16 million pounds of debris!

Puget Soundkeeper acted as the Puget Sound coordinator for this effort by partnering with non-profits, government agencies, businesses and community groups to support local cleanup efforts. Sites ranged from the majestic waters of Baker Lake to the marine inlets of South Puget Sound to the muddy banks of the Duwamish River. Cleanups occurred by both land and boat, involved over 683 participants, and removed a collective 10,076 pounds of debris.

This year’s ICC cleanups featured the usual suspects (cigarette butts, Styrofoam bits, discarded plastic of all kinds) in addition to some fascinating new finds including a leather couch and an almost functional dishwasher. Here are some debris highlights:

  • 8,852 Cigarette Butts (the number one item collected worldwide)
  • 846 Plastic Bottles
  • 39 Hypodermic needles
  • 21 tires
  • 8,715 foam pieces
  • 1,528 glass pieces
  • 25 golf balls
  • Abandoned furniture (2 couches, 1 chair, and 1 mattress)
  • 1 empty oil barrel
  • Derelict crab and fishing gear
  • Large piece of missing dock

Photos from these exciting cleanups are located here. The global ICC report, including Puget Sound data, will be released in the spring of 2016. Thanks again to all of the groups and individuals who came together to keep trash out of our waterways and participate in this effort!


A cleanup volunteer fills out a data card at Alki Beach

Lil Ripperz remove debris from the Green River in Kent

If you would like to organize a cleanup near you, contact us anytime!

A complete list of the 2015 Puget Sound cleanup sites is below:

  1. Governor’s Beach, Vashon Island
  2. Lake Union Kayak Cleanup with Northwest Outdoor Center
  3. Dash Point State Park with the International Community School
  4. Carkeek Park with Seattle Academy
  5. Lake Union Kayak Cleanup with Northwest Outdoor Center
  6. West Seattle Neighborhood with West Seattle Teachers
  7. Seahurst Park with the Environmental Science Center
  8. Golden Gardens with Windermere Real Estate NW
  9. Keystone Spit West State Park with WSU Extension
  10. Lake Union Kayak Cleanup with Northwest Outdoor Center
  11. Centennial Park
  12. Alki Beach
  13. Capitol Hill Cigarette Butt Cleanup with Kate Pflaumer
  14. Lake Union Kayak Cleanup with Northwest Outdoor Center and Nordstrom
  15. Gene Coulon Park with the Renton Sailing Club
  16. Sagstad Marina
  17. Point Defiance Marina
  18. Nooksack River with North Sound Baykeeper
  19. Baker Lake with North Sound Baykeeper
  20. North Green River Park with Lil Ripperz
  21. Blake Island with Argosy Tours and Washington State Parks
  22. Duwamish Alive with Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition
  23. South Puget Sound with Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (weight total not included)
  24. Pioneer Park with the Pacific Shellfish Institute
  25. Veteran’s Park with Jeremy Sibley
  26. Lake Union Kayak Cleanup with Northwest Outdoor Center


SPLASH logo bar

Puget Soundkeeper is able to support International Coastal Cleanup events throughout September and October thanks to support from the Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series presented by Toyota, and thanks to local support from Brown Bear Car Wash.