On October 11, 2012, the Boston skies were a brilliant blue, the temperatures hovered in the mid-60s, and the local weather forecast called for nothing but sun and blue skies all day long. For those wanting to extend summer, all signs pointed to a great beach day. Or, as 215 students from the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown were about to find out, a great day for a beach cleanup - the 25th COASTSWEEP cleanup, to be exact. This annual state-wide cleanup organized by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and UMass-Boston’s Urban Harbors Institute takes place at beaches and waterways all over the state during September and October.
Along with teachers and parent volunteers, the group combed the beach looking for things that did not belong on the shores. Call it marine debris or plain old trash, the kids collected and catalogued more than 100 pounds of man-made materials, including 406 beverage cans and bottles, 229 food wrappers/containers, random pieces of plastic and metal toys, some shotgun casings, and more than 350 smoking-related items (including cigar tips and cigarette butts, lighters, and packaging). In the “other” category, volunteers found an aluminum cane, a chop stick, broken toys, and two car tires.
Carson Beach is one of 186 Massachusetts cleanup spots. And, in addition to helping the beach look a whole lot prettier, the data collected during COASTSWEEP are used as part of a global effort—114 countries around the world participate—to learn more about the sources of marine debris to keep the shores of our beaches, oceans, lakes, streams, and rivers clean. Since 1987, the Ocean Conservancy has recorded every cigarette butt and grand piano that has been removed during the International Cleanup so that ocean managers and policy makers can make informed decisions. (For example, due to the large amount of plastic bags found during cleanups, Italy and San Francisco banned single-use plastic bags, and Ireland added a shopping bag tax that reduced bag use by 90 %.)
Lastly, as the old adage goes, when you go to the beach, take only pictures and leave only footprints. (In other words, please take your trash with you when you go and encourage others to do the same!)
There is still time to get involved in a local COASTSWEEP cleanup—for a list of cleanups, check out COASTSWEEP2012 Cleanups.
And for more facts about COASTSWEEP, check out CZM’s “25 Years of Sweeping the Shores of Marine Debris.”