SANDY HOOK – Clean Ocean Action released its annual Beach Sweeps Report at a press conference at the Seagull’s Nest last Wednesday.
The Beach Sweeps Report provides an overview of the “the good, the bad and the ugly” items found on NJ beaches during the cleanups that took place in 2011.
Along with a record-setting armada of plastics, which represented 83 percent of the total waste found, volunteers for COA also made some unusual finds.
Last year’s record rainfall, storm surges and tidal flooding contributed to the overwhelming amount of litter found along the state’s coastline in 2011.
Heavy rainfalls overwhelm storm drains and sewage treatment systems, forcing untreated sewage and waste items into rivers, oceans and bays.
Amid the flotsam and jetsam recovered from the beaches were one complete ‘Elmo’ costume, a GPS device, a typewriter, a computer, an I-pod and a bottle dating back to 1869.
Plastic remains the number one type of refuse collected from New Jersey beaches, and it is a material that poses special dangers to marine life.
Beach Sweep volunteers collected more than 500 plastic tampon applicators, the remains of mylar balloons, drinking straws and other forms of plastic.
Over time, plastic deteriorates into small pieces, which are then ingested by fish and other marine wildlife. Those plastics can lead to starvation, stress, reproductive defects cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
Other man-made materials also pose dangers to marine life. During the 2011 Sweeps, 20 animals were found dead due to entanglement of nylong balloon string, fishing line and six-pack rings.
Volunteers were able to rescue three animals that had become entangled and return them to the wild.
Volunteers did witness a decline in cigarette buts and smoking waste, officials said. They suspect that decline represents a decrease in the number of people smoking. It is the first time in 19 years that cigarette filters have not made the top three types of debris found.
The 2011 trash haul of 452,698 pieces of debris was collected by 7,575 volunteers who combed the beaches at over 65 locations along the Jersey Shore.
This is the 27th year that COA has sponsored the cleanups, which provides an opportunity for ordinary citizens to act to protect their beaches by taking a stand against litter.
The first cleanup of 2012 will take place on Saturday, April 21 at over 70 sites along the Jersey coast. Individuals, families, businesses and organizations are invited to participate.
Further info on the 2012 Beach Sweeps is available on the web at Cleanoceanaction.org or call (732) 872-2011 to speak with a COA representative.
“ It’s all about New Jersey pride,” said Cindy Zipf, the founder and executive director of COA. “It’s citizens fighting back and giving back to the ocean.”