Most years, organizers would be getting volunteers assigned for a mass scouring of beaches and other areas as part of the annual World Cleanup Day.
Of course this year, large groups are being discouraged in many places (although some regions where COVID-19 outbreaks are low still may have events). So instead, groups like the Ocean Conservancy and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste are encouraging small group or solo efforts, but using technology to lend a hand, with smart phone apps Clean Swell and Litterati to help track what waste is found and where it's found. And they're spreading out the effort over multiple days in September rather than a single date.
The pandemic also is leading to another category of items being collected — personal protective equipment.
Information collected and registered in the database help groups such as the Ocean Conservancy keep tabs on the types of items littering beaches, so they know how to target conservation messages. In response to this year's events, PPE now has its own column in the survey.
As Steve Toloken writes, the 2019 cleanup effort showed that cigarette butts have finally lost their top spot as the item most often found, with flexible food wrappers such as chip bags taking the No. 1 spot.