The Beach and Our Litter
“You drop a bottle in the water in Merrick, and it washes up at Jones Beach,” said Tim Byrne, Co-Director of Operations at Jones Beach, as we observed volunteers picking up those bottles—and more. The occasion was the 22nd Annual International Coastal Cleanup, during which hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide, clean and document what litters our shores.
The American Littoral Society, www.alsnyc.org, hopes to increase public participation in combating pollution. To these ends, volunteers are given trash bags and data cards to record anything they find on the beach, from cups to refrigerators. According to Mr. Byrne, “I tell kids to work in groups of 3—one picks up the garbage, one holds the bag, and the 3rd fills out the card. It’s a great way to teach them about being socially responsible.”
Steve Rosenthal, Beach Captain for Jones Beach Field 10 points out that “Trash washes up on Field 10. On the oceanfront fields most trash is deposited on the sand, and the park picks up regularly every day so it doesn’t accumulate the way it does on field 10.” He is referring to surfrakers, and for a quick mechanical engineering lesson, visit www.hbarber.com/Cleaners/SurfRake/HowItWorks.aspx.
Sallie Phillips, Education Chairman for Save the Beaches recommends “buddy groups of 3 or 4. Each group has a parent chaperon. The students (usually 5th graders) pick up debris and the parent records; teachers use the clean up as a basis for class discussion. Save the Beaches [sponsors] an essay contest (visit www.savethebeaches.org).”
Barbara Cohen, New York State Beach Cleanup Coordinator, Northeast Chapter, ALS, says “We expect mostly ‘people trash’ and this is the awareness and educational component by documenting every item they put into their trash bag on their Cleanup Day, they realize how much of the debris comes from us—our careless toss of some picnic materials, of a water bottle, a plastic bag. It makes participants aware of the part they play as an unwitting litterer and as a solution to the problem of pollution.”
The data collected has many uses in the classroom. [When] debris can be traced to an industry, we contact the company, make them aware of their find and change their behavior. Students can create bar graphs, pie charts, to show percentages of different kinds of trash. They can adopt that beach and follow changes over a period of years. Children have written stories of their finds, their reactions have created drawings, paintings, sculptures out of the trash. The beach cleanup engages students in math, language arts and art work.”
Beach Captain Eva Browne taught K-6 and is Chairman of the Asharoken Conservation Board. She addressed a high school group in the spring using posters. Months later, several of those students attended the cleanup.
Cleanups are not limited to ocean coastlines. Jamie Romeo is the county coordinator for the Monroe County Coastal Clean Up sites. She states, “We have worked with the Girl and the Boy Scouts and have developed a service Coastal Clean Up badge/patch. We also work with school districts and colleges.” The www.rochestercoastalcleanup.org homepage reads “Did you know that we all live in a watershed!?! A watershed is all the land that surrounds a body of water. After a rain shower (or in Rochester, a snow-melt), runoff will travel to the lowest point, taking along anything and everything with it. So now you know how that cigarette butt that was thrown out the window along the highway found its way into your water supply! Congratulations!”#