Barcaloungers, toilet bowls, rubber boots, pieces of fishing net, truck tires, industrial tubing, milk crates, vinyl siding, and cigarette butts—these are but some of the items found during the Massachusetts COASTSWEEP cleanups.
COASTSWEEP is part of an annual event to raise awareness of marine debris and clean beaches from Boston to Bimini. The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is sponsored by Ocean Conservancy and brings hundreds of thousands of volunteers to beaches, lakes, and streams worldwide to remove trash and other marine debris and collect data on the specific types of debris being found. These data allow Ocean Conservancy to make discoveries about the behaviors that cause the debris. For more information about the ICC, see www.coastalcleanup.org.
In Massachusetts, volunteers have been pitching in to clean up stretches of beaches, marshes, the seafloor, and riverbanks since 1987 as part of COASTSWEEP. This Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) event began with 391 volunteers who collected almost two tons of debris along 40 miles of coast. The annual cleanup has grown over the past two decades; in 2011 almost 2,300 volunteers removed 9 tons of trash from more than 118 miles of coastline.
Check out the 2012 Cleanups Summary for details on last year's cleanup efforts, which includes a complete list of cleanups and results.
Curious about what volunteers find at a typical cleanup? Usually, more than half of the debris comes from shoreline and recreational activities, where litter blown from the streets, parking lots, and ball fields ends up in the water. By contrast, only about 10 percent of the marine debris usually comes from ocean-based activities, such as boating and fishing. But it all adds up with an end result of thousands of tons of various plastic and paper debris littering the world's oceans and beaches. This list of the top 10 items collected along the Massachusetts coast in 2011 provides a more in-depth description of the types of debris COASTSWEEP volunteers commonly collect.
|2||Food Wrappers and Containers||9,108|
|6||Beverage Bottles (Plastic)||4,712|
|8||Cups, Plates, and Utensils||3,367|
|10||Beverage Bottles (Glass)||2,585|
The Massachusetts shoreline would look different today if it weren't for the COASTSWEEP volunteers who participate each year. Removing all of that debris is no small task and it would never occur without the dedication of the thousands of people who get out there and make it happen. And each beach cleanup is headed by a particularly dedicated volunteer, the cleanup coordinator, who volunteers time and energy toward identifying one or more sites that need attention and organizing the cleanup activities. See the Get Involved page for details.
All cleanups are unique and can range in size from a few volunteers to more than 200 at some locations. So whatever time you have to give, you can find a COASTSWEEP opportunity that is right for you.
COASTSWEEP is more than a beach cleanup! By joining a COASTSWEEP event, volunteers help address future problems by filling out data cards to show what they've collected. At the end of the cleanups, these data cards are sent to Ocean Conservancy in Washington, DC, where the information is entered into a massive database. The data are then used to analyze the local and international trends in marine debris and identify its sources in an effort to reduce the problem in the future.
Whether it is urban trash or abandoned fishing gear, marine debris is a major marine pollution issue. Every year it injures and kills thousands of marine animals that swallow it or become entangled in it. For more information about marine debris and how you can help, see the ICC website at www.coastalcleanup.org or listen to this podcast about COASTSWEEP.