NEW JERSEY – To celebrate their passion for the ocean, thousands gathered today, April 9, 2022, at 75 sites along the Jersey Shore and beyond to remove harmful debris at Clean Ocean Action’s (COA) 37th Annual Spring Beach Sweeps. Guided by dedicated Beach Captains at each site, volunteers of all ages spent the morning collecting and tabulating debris removed from shorelines from Bergen to Cape May Counties. By doing so, volunteers make beaches safer for marine life and more enjoyable for people, while also contributing the all-important data. The data from the Beach Sweeps turns a one-day event into a legacy of information to improve public awareness, change wasteful habits, enforce litter laws and improve policies to reduce sources of marine debris.
“While Mother Nature sent us some fickle weather, there was nothing fickle about the thousands of volunteers who turned out to give the Jersey Shore beaches a nice, clean sweep – with fascinating finds” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action.
Each Beach Sweeps provides a snapshot of what is found on nearly every beach from Perth Amboy to Cape May, NJ, and beyond. The data produced from the Beach Sweeps is compiled and publicized in an annual report that provides a deeper exploration into litter on the Jersey Shore. To view data presented in the 2021 Beach Sweeps Report, visit CleanOceanAction.org.
Today’s event also marked the official release of the Beach Sweeps data card in Spanish. Spanish data cards have been in demand at many Beach Sweeps sites across New Jersey. COA is committed to inclusivity across all programs and looks forward to taking greater steps towards making events like the Beach Sweeps more accessible for all.
“Thousands of volunteers came from near and far to show their pride for the Jersey Shore. From Beach Captains to Beach Sweeps volunteers, their commitment to protecting our beaches was on dazzling display today.” said Alison Jones, Watershed Program Manager, Clean Ocean Action.
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Collecting data is key to the Beach Sweeps program. The essential task can be tedious and time consuming, so it is a testament of true-blue ocean devotion by volunteers. The data is compiled into annual reports that have been used for over two decades as evidence of the need for strong policies and behavior changes to reduce litter and wasteful practices. For example, the data was instrumental in getting the NJ Single Use Plastic Waste Reduction Act passed. The bulk of this law goes into effect on May 4, 2022, which bans all plastic bags from stores and foam plastic (e.g., Styrofoam) food containers. In addition, the data was used to support passage of the NJ Recycled Content law which incentivizes recycling by creating a market for recycled materials, including plastic. These laws make New Jersey stand out as a national leader in reusing waste and preventing litter, as well as protecting public health and marine life.
“Thanks to the thousands of volunteers that work so hard, we have the evidence to convince our elected officials to pass and enforce the laws we need to reduce this serious threat to the environment and public heath,” said Kari Martin, COA Advocacy Campaign Manager.
Below are preliminary results from Sandy Hook collected by 499 volunteers, including the top five items:
(1) 5,743 food, candy wrappers/bags
(2) 5,052 plastic bottle caps/lids
(3) 4,190 plastic pieces
(4) 3,206 plastic straws/stirrers
(5) 1,157 foam pieces
Throughout Beach Sweeps, volunteers are encouraged to note any out-of-the-ordinary finds. COA labels these finds as “The Roster of the Ridiculous.” Some of the items catalogued today included: gigantic teddy bear, letters written in Russian, hair curler, car bumper, asparagus, hard hat, ladder, car door, and Husky tool bag.
COA’s volunteer Beach Captains are there to direct the hub of volunteers and individual participants at each site. These Captains lead the cleanup effort and are indispensable to the overall success of the program.
“I am a Marine Science student at Stockton University, so being a Beach Captain for Clean Ocean Action has been very important to me,” said Kylie Renna, Volunteer Beach Captain in Atlantic City. “I’m blown away every Beach Sweep by the amount of people that come out and want to help. I love bringing the community together to bring awareness to an important issue and help save our ocean!”
“The waters here in NY/NJ have been so good to me whether it be through providing beautiful scenery, seafood or winter surfs with a few good friends. Yet, it’s hard to deny that my individual habits as a consumer directly and indirectly have a negative impact on the environment here. Being involved with COA comes less from a desire to help out and more an obligation to protect our beautiful and fragile home,” said Gene Casazza, first-time Volunteer Beach Captain.
In many municipalities statewide, the Beach Sweeps are supported by NJ Clean Communities Coordinators, who help to promote the event, organize logistics, and in some cases, serve as volunteer Beach Captains.
“Ocean City has been fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with Clean Ocean Action for many years,” said Charlotte Moyer, Volunteer Beach Captain and NJ Clean Communities Coordinator. “COA’s guidance and leadership has contributed to the great success our clean ups have become. The City has an outstanding volunteer base of our Adopt A Beach participants, families, individuals, businesses, school groups and many others that continue to give of their time & dedication to keeping our beaches and ocean litter free. Now adding NJCCC’s support, resources and expertise to the team – our success of a litter free Ocean City – Americas Greatest Family Resort – can only grow from here.”
Waves of Thanks to Our Beach Sweeps Sponsors!
For over 36 years, Clean Ocean Action has organized grassroots volunteer Beach Sweeps across the state. These dedicated organizations have provided vital funding so that COA can execute and expand the Sweeps. COA also recognizes and thanks all the companies who have supported the event over the years. Clean Ocean Action is grateful for the support of the sponsors and is inspired by all that they do to support our communities.
Site Sponsors: ACECNJ – American Council of Engineering Companies New Jersey, Appalachian Mountain Club, New York-North Jersey Chapter, Applegate, Art for Sea, Baine Contracting, Boatsetter, Ciocca Subaru of Pleasantville, Colliers Engineering & Design, DHL Express, Enterprise Holdings, Inc., Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Manasquan Bank, OceanFirst Foundation, Slalom
“The Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps play a significant role in drawing attention to and reducing the plastics in our oceans and on our coastline,” said Bill Henderson, Senior Vice President, Brother International Corporation. “As a state sponsor and participant of these events, we know how important these efforts are because there is nothing quite like seeing the types of debris firsthand and getting out into the community to make a difference. We are grateful to everyone who joined the Beach Sweeps efforts as we head into Earth month.”
“Bank of America is a longtime supporter of Clean Ocean Action’s Beach Sweeps, with their efforts to keep our beaches clean of harmful debris contributing to the overall wellbeing of our community,” said Alberto Garofalo, President, Bank of America New Jersey. “We can all do our part to protect our coastlines for future generations, and COA’s findings demonstrate the real impact of our everyday decisions.”
Waves of thanks to all our wonderful volunteers, from the small to the tall, who participated in today’s Beach Sweeps! Together we can all make a difference for a cleaner ocean to be enjoyed by generations to come simply by picking up litter whenever and wherever we see it. For example, a piece of debris found on a street in central or northern New Jersey can travel downstream and eventually end up in the ocean.