Pieces of trash dot the waterline at Kingman Island.

Overview:

Hundreds of volunteers will spend the morning picking up plastic debris, preventing it from polluting the Anacostia River reaching the ocean.

Kingman and Heritage Islands in Ward 7 will be one of the thousands of shoreline spots around the globe as a site for Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, September 17. Hundreds of volunteers will spend the morning picking up plastic debris, preventing it from polluting the Anacostia River and potentially reaching the Atlantic Ocean. 

Allison Schutes, Ocean Conservancy’s director for the international event, said the cleanup aims not only to remove trash from the water, but also to connect people to the larger fight for clean rivers and oceans. 

“What we’re going to be doing is joining together with folks from all over the DMV, coming out to Kingman and Heritage Islands to really get our hands dirty, and really see how we as individuals can have an impact on such a global issue that can feel really kind of daunting and challenging,” Schutes said. 

In addition to picking up trash, volunteers also become citizen scientists for the day by tracking the items they find using an app called Clean Swell. Ocean Conservancy uses the database to advocate for governmental policies that will reduce plastic pollution. 

“If we’re talking about policy on the community level, or the state level, or the national level, or even the international level, people are always going to ask for numbers and for proof,” Schutes said. “So we want to make sure that those decision makers are armed with the most information.” 

The International Coastal Cleanup, which starts on the third Saturday in September and facilitates global cleanups throughout the fall, has been running for 37 years. The event came to DC in 2017, when Ocean Conservancy partnered with Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, an outdoor education group that manages Heritage and Kingman Islands. Living Classroom hosts educational programming and job skills training as well as volunteer opportunities for people interested in helping maintain the islands. 

“It’s so exciting to kind of introduce folks who are not as familiar with the Kingman and Heritage Islands to this amazing pocket of ecosystems that we have here in the District,” Schutes said. The islands have been designated as a “State Conservation Area,” and portions are recognized as “Critical Wildlife Areas.”

Schutes, who has lived in the District for a decade, said that almost 1,000 volunteers came out to the islands for the International Coastal Cleanup in 2019—the last one before the pandemic. This year, about 200 people have already RSVP’d. 

This year’s International Coastal Cleanup will take place from 9am to 12pm at Kingman Island, 575 Oklahoma Ave NE. Check out the event page for more details or to sign up. 

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