Volunteers Clean Jersey Shore With Beach Sweeps

Sirena and Dylan Romeo found a big piece of broken wood amongst the washed up debris on the beach. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  JERSEY SHORE – Jersey Shore beaches had a huge “clean sweep” as volunteers from Clean Ocean Action’s (COA) 36th Annual Beach Sweeps removed debris from beaches and waterways.

Buckets of debris were found in Spring Lake. (Photo courtesy Clean Ocean Action)

  Clean Ocean Action is a leading national and regional voice working to protect waterways using science, law, research, education and citizen action. Their annual Beach Sweeps is held every April and October and is the state’s largest volunteer driven, citizen science and environmental event.

  The Beach Sweep took place on April 17 with over 5,500 volunteers removing harmful debris throughout 67 site locations around the Jersey Shore. Over the years, 147,860 volunteers have contributed 864,688 volunteer hours to remove and record debris from NJ’s beaches and waterways, according to a press release.

Ken Salerno of the Toms River Elks has his bucket overflowing with trash he picked off the beach. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  “It is a fantastic day for the ocean. The amazing turnout for the Spring Sweeps is testament to the love and commitment people have for a clean ocean! Everyone complied with safety rules, many brought buckets and all removed thousands of items, mostly plastic from the beach. The data they collected will help us continue to make progress to reduce marine debris,” Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action said.

  At the Ortley Beach, 3rd Ave. site location, about 42 volunteers arrived to pick up trash and debris on the beach. Beach Captains Crystal DeCaro and Ryan Carr have been volunteering with COA’s Beach Sweeps for eight years, and have been the captains at the Ortley Beach site for the past five years.

  “We tend to notice a lot of items we pick up are PPE (personal protective equipment) unfortunately, but really it’s a big assortment,” DeCaro said. “Some items we’ve already picked up today, a lot of it being fishing lures, plastic bags, rubber bait. A lot of things tend to be fishing related, but you also notice things like food wrappers, plastic bottles, aluminum tins. Cigarette butts are probably the number one item picked up unfortunately. Water caps, bottle caps, ribbons from balloons are just a few of the many items.”

  With the pandemic continuing still for over a year, volunteers have seen an increase of PPE items ending up on beaches.

  “The PPE is one of the top things that we’ve noticed. Last year they had to cancel the spring Beach Sweep, but we had the fall one. We noticed during fall that we were picking up so many masks, gloves, etc., that they actually had to add it to the data card. We definitely noticed gloves more than masks but still sadly we are finding more of these items,” DeCaro said.

Sirena and Dylan Romeo found a big piece of broken wood amongst the washed up debris on the beach. (Photo by Alyssa Riccardi)

  DeCaro expressed why it’s so important to support and take part in events like the COA’s Beach Sweep.

  “This is our home. It makes such a difference, to be a part of something that is going to make an effect not only in your own lives but at the same time it helps (people) realize that we’re cleaning this up so that younger kids and other people don’t find this or your pets don’t get into it,” DeCaro said. “You’re also saving the environment. Especially now that ‘Seaspiracy’ came out, I think that there’s more awareness because of these Netflix documentaries and different things bringing awareness to it. People just want to make sure that if they’re going to be involved in any type of sea life or doing water activities, that they’re making sure they’re taking care of those animals too.”

A family cleans up a beach in Belmar. (Photo courtesy Clean Ocean Action)

  Other locations such as Sandy Hook had a huge turnout, with 175 volunteers collecting debris. According to a press release, the top five items found at this location included: 4,254 food/candy wrappers/bags; 3,797 plastic pieces; 3,777 plastic bottle caps/lids; 1,425 plastic straws/stirrers; and 1,019 foam pieces. Volunteers at Sandy Hook also found 63 disposable face masks, 8 reusable face masks, 16 disposable gloves and 27 disposable wipes.