Enviro

Alliance for a Living Ocean’s DIY Clean Up Signboards Invite Residents and Visitors to Clean on Their Own

Signs indicate businesses that facilitate do-it-yourself cleanups and social media awareness
By JON COEN | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Kyle Gronostajski ALO’s new signboard project encourages people to do their own beach cleanups.

Long Beach Island — A full two thirds of all plastic found in the ocean originates on the land, according to a group called Our World In Data, which provides research and interactive data on the world’s largest problems. Its site also states that over 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s.

“Only 9 percent of that has been recycled,” explained Alliance for a Living Ocean’s executive director, Kyle Gronostajski. “Where’s the rest of it? If we can pick it up before it gets into the ocean, then we have a greater impact.”

That’s the idea behind ALO’s new DIY Clean Up Program, where the public is encouraged to do their own beach cleanups, facilitated by local businesses.

Garbage in our oceans is one of the greatest threats facing humankind. And it’s what led to the formation of Alliance for a Living Ocean, LBI’s grassroots environmental organization whose goal is to promote and maintain clean water and a healthy coastal environment through education, research and active participation, recognizing the need to manage our entire watershed, bay and ocean.

The group formed after the disgusting August of 1987 when a 50-mile garbage slick floated into the New Jersey shore, including medical waste. It closed the beaches for three days and destroyed the final weeks of the tourism season, having far-reaching economic impacts.

A group of concerned citizens got together to find the source of the pollution and stop it. The first goal was to focus the public attention. Thirty years later, they’ve had quite an impact, joining the voices of East Coasters to stop ocean dumping. LBI has not seen a “trash tide” since, but sources aren’t as easy to identify today, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that if you were to calculate by weight, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, a scary thought as the sea is an important source of enjoyment, food and tourism revenue worldwide.

Although LBI may be only a small contributor to global waterway pollution, as a coastal community, we are 100 percent dependent on the health of those waters. ALO is making it easier for anyone to take an active role in reducing our local impact. And it is focusing public attention in a very 2019 kind of way.

“ALO is looking to build off our longstanding history of organizing, hosting and participating in beach cleanups by encouraging all to take the beach at any time to eliminate marine debris,” said Gronostajski. “Although we host many cleanups throughout the year, there is no better time to participate than the present. Regardless of the time of year, there is sadly always trash to be found on our beaches, beach entrances, bay beaches and streets. We’re asking residents and visitors alike to help keep LBI clean.”

ALO will have six DIY Clean Up locations marked with signboards at local businesses on the Island and the mainland. Thus far, the confirmed businesses are Wally’s in Surf City, Sink ’R Swim in Haven Beach, The Union Market in Tuckerton and the Sea Shell Resort and Beach Club in Beach Haven.

“I went to ALO weekly events growing up while my parents were at work,” said Sink ’R Swim owner Samantha Dipietro, whose parents own Stefano’s, the Blue Water Grill and the California Grill, all in Long Beach Township. “My parents had yearly employee beach cleanups and crab stencil stampings in the Stefano’s neighborhood.

“ALO played a important role in growing up on LBI, teaching me not only to appreciate the island we call home, but also my role as a local to help visitors appreciate and preserve our bay and beaches. I jumped at the chance to be one of the locations to provide people the chance to be a part of the new DIY Clean Up Program on their own time. With the Blue Water Café and Sink ’R Swim, we have customers all day that will benefit from the accessibility and awareness,” she explained.

Gronostajski hopes to confirm the last two locations soon with one going to the north end of the island.

The project is being funded by the Garden Club of Long Beach Island, for which Gronostajski and the board of directors are very grateful.

ALO hosts multiple cleanups throughout the year, but this isn’t a scheduled event. Participants organize themselves and do it when it’s best for them.

“There’s no better time to participate in a beach cleanup than the present. Regardless of the time of year, there is sadly always trash to be found on our beaches, beach entrances, bay beaches and streets. We’re asking citizens and visitors alike to help keep LBI clean,” Gronostajski said.

The sign boards make people aware of the problems and this easy opportunity to be part of the solution. Each location will have five-gallon buckets on hand so that folks can borrow one or more, go to their chosen area and do a cleanup. They can dispose of the litter in public trashcans.

The signs also encourage participants to snap a picture and share to social media. To grow the movement, ALO is asking participants to tag @alo-lbi, plus add the hashtags #alolbi and #IKeepLBIClean. This gives it a viral nature and sparks others to take part.

“Tag us and help us document what you’re finding,” said Gronostajski. “Chances are it will be a lot of plastic. We’re looking to copy off the immense success of the @2minutebeachclean and #2minutebeachclean campaign on Instagram from the other side of the Atlantic. We want to build a community and social movement to not only create cleaner beaches, but also get further environmental discussions going with regards to single use plastics especially.”

He explained that once folks become aware of cigarette butts, plastic water bottle caps and straws, it is hard to stop seeing them on the ground everywhere they go. They are more inclined to simply pick the litter up.

Awareness and evolution of habits are important because every generation moving forward will have to deal with the growing amount of waste we create. Recycling remains a complicated issue.

“For one thing, the market for recycled material oftentimes just isn’t there. The second issue is far too often, materials destined for recycling are contaminated or just not recyclable within our system,” Gronostajski added.

A move toward systems such as bottle deposits, he explained, could increase recycling numbers from the 1-percent range to potentially 90 percent or more, taking cooperation from not just consumers, but also the producers and vendors.

“The hope is that everyone’s awareness will be heightened and they will start to change their consumer habits with the simple things like getting a reusable bag, a reusable water bottle, those types of thing. It can quickly snowball to the point that you are replacing your toothbrush with a bamboo one, buying the peanut butter in the glass jar, and so on,” he said. “Grab a bucket, do a quick beach cleanup, and tag us in a photo of what you find. All we ask is that you return our buckets where you found them and properly dispose of the trash you found so the next person can do the same.”

If any businesses would like to take part, they can contact livingoceanalo@gmail.com.

— Jon Coen

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

Unfortunately, trash is a problem on LBI all year-round. (Gronostajski)
ALO makes it easy to clean the beach or marsh. Then tag @alo_lbi, #ikeepLBIclean #alolbi. (Photo by: Kyle Gronostajski)
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