Single-use plastic remains top item in N.J. spring beach sweep

Volunteers at Sandy Hook for Clean Ocean Action's Spring Beach Sweep. (Courtesy of Clean Ocean Action)

Volunteers at Sandy Hook for Clean Ocean Action's Spring Beach Sweep. (Courtesy of Clean Ocean Action)

Under overcast skies, thousands of volunteers swept beaches from the Bayshore to Cape May County on Saturday as part of a New Jersey-based organization’s annual program.

Clean Ocean Action, a regional coalition based in Sandy Hook that fights for clean water off the New Jersey and New York coastlines, hosted its 34th annual Spring Beach Sweeps at 60 sites.

More than 5,000 volunteers scoured tidal waterways for debris, documenting the quantity and types of garbage found. The collective results will be subsequently analyzed and published in an annual report, which will help to reduce sources of pollution, according to a press release.

On Sandy Hook alone, 600 volunteer sweepers found 15,068 plastic pieces, 12,344 food/candy wrappers, 7,570 plastic caps/lids, 5,366 straws/stirrers, and 2,939 foam pieces.

Among Clean Ocean Action’s “Roster of the Ridiculous,” volunteers also found a car bumper, hula hoop, caution tape, and a candy wrapper from North Carolina.

In 2018, 454,365 pieces of debris were removed from New Jersey beaches by Clean Ocean Action volunteers during the biannual sweeps.

The organization reported a sharp increase in balloons, condoms, and glass pieces and significant declines in 55-gallon drums and cigarette filters.

More than 133,000 volunteers have removed nearly seven million pieces of litter over more than three decades.

“The greatest success of the Beach Sweeps are the take-home lessons: citizens taking responsibility for the environment, making a difference, teamwork, and commitment,” the organization said in a news release.

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