Picking up the detritus that accumulates at local shorelines may not be the most glamorous of weekend activities, but for those who don gloves and rubber boots to help with the monumental task of fishing out wayward garbage that washes ashore, it’s a task that’s necessary to keeping local waterways clean.
As they have done for over 25 years, the Sheldrake Environmental Center will host this year’s International Coastal Cleanup—part of the Ocean Conservancy’s worldwide initiative—on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at three locations in Larchmont: Manor Park, the Larchmont Reservoir at 685 Weaver St. and the Hommocks conservation area behind Hommocks Middle School.
The Cleanup is open to all ages and will involve collecting and tallying debris on coastlines, said Holly Moskow, executive director of the Sheldrake Environmental Center. Teams of three—anchored by a site captain—will work to collect, tally and mark their findings on a data card.
“It’s not just cleaning up the beach,” she pointed out, continuing, “We tell participants that they’re part of an international scientific research project.”
Following the collection, all garbage is weighed and sent to the American Littoral Society, a nonprofit, environmental organization that is involved with issues affecting the littoral zone—the area between land and sea—on beaches between high and low tide.
“It is categorized and tallied up on a state, local, national and international level,” said Moskow.
According to data on the Ocean Conservancy’s website, last year’s Cleanup involved nearly 600,000 volunteers from 10 countries worldwide. Of the approximately 9 million pounds of trash collected, the top ten items washing up on shore included 2 million pounds of cigarette butts, 1.2 million pounds of plastic caps/lids, 1.5 million pounds of plastic bottles and 1 million pounds of plastic bags.
But it’s not all cigarette butts and plastic bottles that are being tossed out recklessly to linger in the sea. Last year, a variety of unlikely items turned up on shores worldwide including 155 toilet seats, 271 shopping carts and 195 cell phones, according to the Conservancy’s data.
Locally, the items washed ashore have been a mixed bag, says Moskow.
"It depends on the site, but there is always a lot of plastic of all kinds. Soda and water bottles and caps and plastic food wrappers are everywhere. At the beach there is also marine debris—styrofoam from buoys and docks and those plastic discs from the wastewater treatment plant. In the Hommocks Conservancy last year I believe they found a fair amount of drug paraphernalia," she said.
In 2011, between 50-70 people participated in the Cleanup, with many going to Manor Park, said Moskow. She hopes this year there will be more of a turnout at the other locations at Larchmont Reservoir and Hommocks.
To sign up, please call the Sheldrake Environmental Center at (914) 834-1443 and ask for Amy, the schedule coordinator. Several new classes for both children and adults will be starting next week; enrollment is still open. Visit the Sheldrake’s website here for more details and click on Programs on the top of the page.