This Friday and Saturday, the Environmental Protection Ministry is calling upon Israelis of all ages to head to the nation’s beaches to partake in an International Coastal Cleanup effort.Alongside volunteers around the world, thousands of Israelis will be heading out to collect litter from the country’s shores throughout the weekend, the Environmental Protection Ministry said. US Ambassador Dan Shapiro launched the nationwide cleanup efforts on Thursday, by taking to Palmahim Beach with his embassy staff members.International Coastal Cleanup, launched by the Washington, DC-based Ocean Conservancy in 1986, has led to the removal of more than 145 million pounds (66 million kg.) through the work of more than nine million volunteers, according to the organization.This year’s official International Coastal Cleanup day occurs on Saturday, with some variations from country to country. In 2014, about 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries amassed more than 16 million pounds (7.3 million kg.) of trash, the Ocean Conservancy website said.Over the weekend cleanup operations, Environmental Protection Ministry officials said they will be compiling data about the amount of waste collected, and contributing this information to the International Coastal Cleanup database for the year.This was the second consecutive year in which the US Embassy staff members took part in the International Coastal Cleanup Day efforts in Israel, last year picking up litter in Jisr al-Zarqa with the town’s schoolchildren.Shapiro stressed the importance on Thursday of raising awareness about marine pollution, noting that US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are working on a policy toward the protection of oceans, beaches and lakes. All in all, plastic bags account for about 30 percent of the country’s total waste, the Environmental Protection Ministry said, citing data from 2012. This figure is three times the global average, and speaks to the need to eradicate the use of such bags, a statement from the ministry said.Food packaging and disposable utensils make up about 31% of waste here, in comparison to the 22% average worldwide, another statistic the ministry described as “alarming.” Such a percentage is “indicative of an excessive use of disposable utensils and a nonchalance of Israeli vacationers toward keeping the beaches clean.”As volunteers clean up the coasts on Friday and Saturday, beaches that already have earned the international “Blue Flag” certificate for environmental excellence will be adopting other beaches that have not yet earned this status, the Environmental Protection Ministry said. Activities along the Mediterranean coast will be coordinated by the ministry’s Clean Coast Program, in conjunction with EcoOcean, the organization managing the Blue Flag project in Israel.Volunteers of all ages are welcome to come clean the coasts this weekend, on land, by boat or by scuba diving, the ministry added.