It may have been a windy, rainy day, but nothing could dampen the spirits of thousands of true-blue ocean advocates who gathered at 74 beaches and shorelines across the state for Clean Ocean Action’s (COA) annual Fall Beach Sweeps. Armed with gloves, buckets and big smiles, these rough and ready volunteers set out to spend three hours collecting debris.
“The dedication that these amazing volunteers, from the small to the tall commit, is awe-inspiring. I know our ocean is in good hands and it empowers us to battle on,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action.
The Fall Beach Sweep was held after a month of intense rains and flooding events of Tropical Storm Ophelia, meaning the volunteers had plenty of debris to collect. All that collected material is counted and tallied; the total information collected is an important resource that helps support laws at the local, state and federal levels, as well as policies to help stop sources of litter and pollution.
While results are still being analyzed, single-use plastic items are still the No. 1 culprit of marine debris on the beaches. The “Roster of the Ridiculous” highlights some of the most unusual items found by volunteers on local beaches. The winner of the fall contest, Gianna, found a loveseat sofa at the 17th Street Brigantine site. The winner of the spring contest found a 1962 molded dinosaur toy.
This year was a record-breaking year for junior beach captains, with 26 across the state helping to promote the local sites, gather support and help ensure a successful event. COA is hoping to continue to expand the junior beach captain volunteer participation in the coming years. In many municipalities statewide, the Beach Sweeps are supported by NJ Clean Communities Coordinators, Public Works Department staff, Recreation Department staff, as well as council members and mayors who help promote the event, organize logistics, and in some cases, serve as volunteer beach captains.
“What a day for Beach Sweeps,” said Kira Cruz, COA’s Debris Free Sea coordinator and organizer of the statewide Beach Sweeps. “Mother Nature certainly let us know she was present, but that didn’t stop the plethora of volunteers who still showed up! The efforts of our outstanding volunteers – some of whom braved heavy rain and winds to clean up our beaches statewide is a testament to our work. Quite frankly, I’m still at a loss for words! I am beyond grateful for all who participated, our sponsors, the students and staff at MAST, our Beach Captains, and Jr. Beach Captains, my coworkers, and many more. Together, we will continue to rid our beaches of marine debris and stop the harmful effects of non-point source pollution!”
A full report on the 38th annual Beach Sweeps is being prepared; to learn more about it and COA’s ongoing efforts to protect the waterways, visit CleanOceanAction.org.