Volunteers Help Alliance for a Living Ocean With Fall ‘Beach Sweeps’

By Juliet Kaszas-Hoch | Oct 30, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Long Beach Island — Volunteers gathered at New Jersey beaches, bays and waterways last Saturday for Clean Ocean Action’s annual Fall Beach Sweeps. Alliance for a Living Ocean coordinated a local cleanup on Long Beach Island, with dozens of people helping out, according to ALO Executive Director Kyle Gronostajski.

As Gronostajski explained, “We had a beautiful day to assist Clean Ocean Action with Fall Beach Sweeps. We had 70-plus volunteers-turned-citizen-scientists head out to various locations on and around the LBI region to pick up and catalog marine debris and trash.”

Thanks to a generous grant from the Garden Club of Long Beach Island, the nonprofit was able to provide all volunteers with reusable five-gallon buckets if they had not brought their own, he said. “We moved to the BYOB (bring your own bucket) suggestion and obtained funding because handing out endless plastic trash bags to clean up plastic pollution seemed counter-intuitive.”

ALO set up a weigh station near Wally’s in Surf City, and, said Gronostajski, “we weighed in 85 pounds of trash, and that was only what was brought back, as many volunteers emptied their buckets and refilled along the way numerous times.”

He added, “One of the not-so-surprising, but new, items among the many bottle caps, cigarette butts, straws and other usual suspects were newcomers in the form of vaping, or Juul, specifically cartridges and covers.

“One volunteer also found a plane ticket.”

Elsewhere in the state, as Clean Ocean Action pointed out, volunteers found: a bike helmet, a butter container, a car seat, a dental retainer, a hard hat, a railroad tie, a sneaker, a snowman doll, soy sauce packets, a squid toy, swim goggles, a tire and a Wonder Woman figurine.

Mary Montone posted in Ship Bottom Update on Facebook that she and her husband cleaned up a few spots in Ship Bottom, noting, “Most our time was spent picking up cigarettes butts.” She remarked, “If you are a smoker be aware pushing your cigarette butt into the sand doesn’t make it go away,” and said she hopes the borough will do more to enforce the law that prohibits smoking on any beach in the state.

More than 6,000 citizens volunteered for Beach Sweeps throughout New Jersey on Saturday. In Sandy Hook, the preliminary data for the top five types of litter, collected by 700 volunteers there, were: plastic pieces (10,033), plastic caps and lids (6,569), food wrappers (4,633), plastic straws and stirrers (3,824) and foam pieces (1,894).

As COA notes, “Beach Sweeps help reduce debris from entering waterways, where they become harmful and even lethal to aquatic life. The data from the Beach Sweeps turns a one-day event into a legacy of information to improve public awareness, change wasteful habits, enforce litter laws and improve policies to reduce sources of marine debris. Marine debris is a human-caused, human-solved issue.”

Cindy Zipf, Clean Ocean Action executive director, called Beach Sweeps “an empowering event. It’s not only a wake-up call to the small and the tall about the plastic plague in the ocean, but provides a way to make a difference by improving the ocean and beaches (people) enjoy so much. The data they collect is essential. Over the years it has been used to reduce sources of debris and single-use plastics through local, state and federal actions.”

Overall, here on LBI, said Gronostajski, “the sentiment was that the beaches on this particular day were ‘clean.’ We want to remind all our volunteers that the tides, season and recent weather in the form of rains and winds all affect the noticeable trash on the beach areas. While the open beach may have been free of most of the debris, regular collection points like beach entrances and bayfront choke points, where currents swirl, all still had their regular large amounts.

“Don’t forget that you can do a cleanup any day, anywhere. Find one of our cleanup boards and buckets at Wally’s, Farias’ Ship Bottom store, Sink ’R Swim Men’s Shop or the Union Market at the Tuckerton Seaport. Do a cleanup, snap a photo, post it to Instagram or Facebook and tag us @alo_lbi with the hashtags #IKeepLBIClean #alolbi.”

“The enthusiasm for cleaning our beaches seems to be growing with every Beach Sweeps, and we are grateful for the thousands of volunteers who committed their Saturday morning to collecting and categorizing marine debris,” said Alison McCarthy, COA Coastal Watershed Protection coordinator. “With every piece of debris picked up, the ocean becomes safer for marine life, and the data collected creates a lasting legacy of each volunteer’s effort.”

Litter collected from across the state is tallied after each Beach Sweeps and compiled in Clean Ocean Action’s annual data report. The 2019 Annual Beach Sweeps Report will be released in April 2020, prior to the 35th annual Spring Beach Sweeps. Learn more at cleanoceanaction.org.

Visit ALO online at livingocean.org, or on Facebook or Instagram, for information about Spring Beach Sweeps and other upcoming events.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch


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