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The premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and announcements in Monmouth County, New Jersey

May 10, 2022

Clean Ocean Action’s Spring Beach Sweeps

By Lori Draz

High school students from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology

It didn’t seem like Mother Nature was ready to get out of bed on the morning of April 9, but the chilly rain didn’t dampen the spirits of more than 5,000 dedicated ocean lovers who came to remove harmful debris at Clean Ocean Action’s (COA) 37th annual Spring Beach Sweeps. Volunteers participated at a record 75 different clean-up sites on shorelines from Bergen to Cape May counties. 

Volunteer Beach Captain Kathleen Gasienica braves the rainy conditions.

These hardy volunteers, many of whom have participated for more than a decade, collect and catalogue all types of debris. By doing so, they are not only cleaning shorelines across the state, but generating critical data on the types and sources of pollution. The data are then compiled into annual reports that have been used as evidence of the need to change wasteful habits, as well as implement and upgrade policies to reduce sources of marine debris. For example, the data were instrumental in getting the NJ Single Use Plastic Waste Reduction Act passed, which went into effect May 4. It bans all plastic bags from stores and foam plastic food containers. The law also requires straws to be provided to customers only upon request. Data from COA’s Beach Sweeps were also used to support passage of the NJ Recycled Content Law which incentivizes recycling by creating a market for recycled materials, including plastic. 

Cindy Zipf, COA executive director, welcomed nearly 500 volunteers at Sandy Hook.

“Thousands of volunteers came from near and far to show their pride for the Jersey Shore. From Beach Captains to Beach Sweeps volunteers, their commitment to protecting our beaches was on dazzling display today,” said Alison Jones, COA Watershed Program manager.

You can view last year’s data in the 2021 Beach Sweeps Report, which was recently released, at CleanOceanAction.org. The preliminary top five results from the 499 Sandy Hook volunteers during the April 9, 2022 Spring Beach Sweeps include: 

• 5,743 food, candy wrappers/bags

• 5,052 plastic bottle caps/lids

• 4,190 plastic pieces

• 3,206 plastic straws/stirrers

• 1,157 foam pieces

Volunteers often discover out-of-the-ordinary finds at each Beach Sweeps. Some of this Spring’s most unusual items included a gigantic teddy bear, letters written in Russian, a hair curler, car bumper, asparagus, hard hat, ladder, car door and Husky tool bag. These items are presented on the “Roster of the Ridiculous” on each year’s Beach Sweeps Report.

Furry friends joined in on the fun!

At the heart of it all are COA’s volunteer beach captains who lead the cleanup efforts and direct the volunteers at each site. 

“I am a marine science student at Stockton University and a beach captain,” said Kylie Renna. “I’m blown away every Beach Sweeps by the amount of people that come out and want to help. I love bringing the community together to bring awareness to an important issue and help save our ocean!”

COA thanks the dedicated organizations that have provided vital funding for the sweeps and is gratefully inspired by what the sponsors do to support their communities.