Beaches Still Awash in Litter, Report Says

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SANDY HOOK – Clean Ocean Action released the 2009 Beach Sweeps Report last week, identifying the totals for over 95 items of marine debris collected by volunteers last year.  The numbers are consistent with previous years with no sign of plastic litter letting up.

For 25 years volunteers have been gathering along the shore to collect debris off the beaches, and importantly, record the evidence of the trash collected and the scope and magnitude of illegal activities—that being littering.  Thanks to their hard work, there is a review of 16 years of data in the Journal of Citizen Action Against Beach Litter, released this past March.

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Last year ranked third in the amount of litter collected over 25 years with a total number of items collected at 301,783.  Once again, the majority of debris removed was disposable plastics – items designed to be used once and thrown away.  Plastic including foam represents 80% of the total waste.

In recent years, bottle caps and lids and cigarette butts have been switching as the number one spot of top beach trash. The number one item found this year is plastic caps and lids.

The Dirty Dozen:

  1. Bottle caps and lids: 33,551
  2. Cigarette Filters: 30,784
  3. Plastic pieces:  28,508
  4. Straws and stirrers:21,920
  5. Plastic Food wrappers and bags: 19,848
  6. Foam Plastic Pieces: 16,713
  7. Plastic Beverage bottles: 11,056
  8. Plastic Cap Rings: 8,215
  9. Metal Bottle Caps: 6,774  (first time in Dirty Dozen)
  10. Wood Pieces : 6,472
  11. Plastic Shopping bags: 5,707
  12. Plastic cigar tips: 5,702

Roster of the Ridiculous
While all the debris collected from our beaches should be considered unusual or unnatural, the items below are some items that were specifically listed by volunteers as the most unusual found on the beach:

  • Acrylic Nail
  • Air Conditioner
  • Baby Crib
  • Blow-up Dolphin
  • Breathing Mask
  • Cactus
  • Cage
  • Christmas Tree with Lights
  • Coconut
  • Driver’s License
  • Electric Box
  • Fire Hose
  • Fisher Price Picnic Table
  • Flash Drive
  • Golf Clubs
  • Guitar
  • Gutter
  • iPhone
  • IV Bag
  • Japanese Seafood Snack
  • 7-inch Knife in Case
  • Lump of Coal
  • Mannequin Legs with Socks
  • Oxygen Tank Plastic Nose
  • Pots and Pans
  • Rubber Squid
  • Running Shoes
  • Table Top
  • Tea Bags and Dried Fruit
  • Telephone Pole
  • Trawling Line
  • Underwear
  • Vampire Teeth
  • Working Boomerrang

“The 2009 Annual Beach Sweep Report is an educational tool through which we can track and monitor the marine debris problem in NJ,” stated Tavia Danch, COA’s Pollution Prevention Coordinator. “Most importantly, the report can be used to advocate for pollution prevention initiatives and legislation, such as smoking bans and plastic bag bans,” added Danch.

In comparing the previous 15 years of data to 2009 increases were seen in the number of plastic foam pieces and packaging material.  An increase in mylar balloons was found and for the first time more mylar than rubber balloons were collected. The number of plastic tampons applicators (an indicator of raw sewage) has been increasing over time.  For the first time, metal bottle caps made the Dirty Dozen list.

“We keep hoping the amount of trash collected will start to decline,” said COA Staff Scientist Heather Saffert, PhD, who reviewed data results from 1993 to 2009.  “However, we’re still seeing a persistence of trash on our beaches from New York/New Jersey metro area combined sewer overflows and litter from the entire shore region that ends up in our waterways.”

“Marine debris on our beaches is evidence that crimes have been committed.  The vast majority of this garbage is caused by littering—which is not a harmless act.  This waste washes into the waterways which can be deadly to wildlife, and can ruin a day at the beach,” said Cindy Zipf,  COA’s Executive Director.   “In celebration of Beach Sweep 25! we are urging all citizens to join us by attending Beach Sweeps 25 this April 24th at over 69 locations throughout the state,” she added.

The storms over the winter and spring have trashed beaches throughout the region.  Citizens are encouraged to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and the 25 Anniversary of the Beach Sweeps by attending Beach Sweeps 25 this April 24 at over 69 locations throughout the state.  Events begin at 9 a.m. and end around noon.  For site locations and information visit www.cleanoceanaction.org.


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