(Sept. 20, 2019) Residents and visitors have a second chance to help clean up the bay, beach and ocean during the annual Coastal Cleanup event in Ocean City, Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

“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.”

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Members of Theta Kai Kappa of Salisbury University collect trash during the Coastal Cleanup event on Saturday, Sept. 7.

The original Coastal Cleanup was scheduled to take place on Saturday, Sept. 7, but was postponed because of tropical storm concerns. Despite this, several people attended the originally-scheduled cleanup, gathering several pounds of trash, most of which was cigarette butts.

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.

“When you think of all the people that visit our town and, unfortunately, are not responsible – it’s not just visitors, it’s probably residents as well – they get out at nighttime on the beach and they’re just leaving their trash,” Smith said. “The next morning when you come down to the beach you just see trash everywhere.

“There are people out there that just don’t care, but there are also a lot of people out there that do care,” she added.

Last year, over 200 people participated in the Ocean City 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.

After picking up the trash, data is sent to the Ocean Conservancy where it is tabulated.

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.’”

Aside from cigarette butts, pieces of plastic, bottles, caps, bags and sand toys are the most frequently found items in the ocean, on the beach and near the bay areas. 

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.

Participants should arrive a little before 10 a.m. to 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 sandis@mdcasostalbays.org.

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