(Sept. 6, 2019) Pieces of plastic, bottles, caps, bags sand toys and cigarettes are the most frequently found items in the ocean, on the beach and near the bay areas during the annual Coastal Cleanup, which will take place in Ocean City on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Coastal Cleanup is part of an International Coastal Cleanup sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, an organization working to protect the world’s oceans. It gathers the types and amounts of trash collected during these efforts to help identify sources of debris and to explore ways to reduce litter.
The event has been taking place in Ocean City since 1994, and volunteers have picked up thousands of pounds of trash since its inception.
“Once you participate in a trash cleanup, you will find that you will always be picking up trash, which could be a small piece that might just be that piece that saves a bird or a marine animal from harm,” Sandi Smith, development and marketing coordinator for Maryland Coastal Bays Program, said. “Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to participated in this year’s cleanup.”
Last year, over 200 people participated in the Ocean City coastal cleanup and removed 500 pounds of trash from the beach, bay and sidewalks. In addition to removing trash, volunteers contributed to the world’s largest database on marine debris by logging each item picked up.
“It’s going to be interesting this year because last year it took place two weeks after school started,” Smith said. “This year it’s one week after school starts. I don’t know if it’s going to be on a lot of people’s radar or not just because of the other obligations … with team sports and stuff like that, so it’ll be interesting to see.”
After picking up the trash, data is sent to the Ocean Conservancy where it is tabulated.
“Results from this cleanup will be included on the Ocean Conservancy website so you can actually see what a difference you made,” Smith said.
According to Smith, the most commonly picked up piece of trash around the beach and bay areas are cigarette butts.
“A couple of years ago, during one of our cleanups when we started focusing on cigarette butts, when we noticed they were our number one source of trash, we were providing small bags and a mother came up with her child,” Smith said. “She came up and she looked at us and she was just bewildered. She looked at us and she said, ‘Oh, my God, I smoke and I throw my cigarette butts out the window all the time. I never thought about it.’”
“That’s why we started our butt hut program, which is kind of a slow-moving program, and I’m hoping maybe after the summer season we can get more,” she continued.
Maryland Coastal Bays collaborates with the Town of Ocean City, the Ocean City Surf Club, Chesapeake Utilities and Sandpiper Energy for the cleanup.
“We all want to take care of our homes and want it to be the best it can be for our kids but on the other side of it, we need to solve a lot of problems we have with the environment and we need to teach our kids by example,” Effie Cox, environmental chair for the Ocean City Surf Club, said. “Not only to help correct what’s there right now and protect our homes and the sea life so we don’t create more problems right now, but we need to teach our next generation that these are problems and we need to change what we do.”
The event can also be used as an incentive to complete community service hours and also qualifies for Maryland’s Day to Serve.
“The governor’s mandate started a couple of years ago with another state,” Smith said. “But then whatever state it was gave a challenge to all the other governors and [Gov.] Hogan jumped right on it. All state employees can be paid up to four hours for doing a volunteer service job.”
Participants should arrive a little before 10 a.m. at Ocean City Town Hall on Third Street where organizers will distribute trash bags, latex gloves and trash tally sheets. Participants will also receive a free T-shirt courtesy of Chesapeake Energy and Sandpiper Utilities while supplies last.
For more information about Coastal Cleanup or to register for Saturday’s event, call Smith at 410-213-2297 ext. 106 or email at email@example.com.