Hundreds of scouts, students, birdwatchers and others who care about their local environment are expected to converge on Queens’ waterfront areas Saturday during the 21st Annual International Coastal Cleanup.
At nearly two dozen sites stretching from Astoria to the Rockaways, volunteers will tidy up beaches and target the sources of litter in order to curb the problem in the future. Between 2,000 and 3,000 people are expected to participate in the five boroughs.
“When you add it all up, the cleanup makes a big difference,” said Broad Channel resident Dan Mundy, one of more than two dozen beach captains who will oversee individual cleanup sites. “You or I alone might not make a big difference, but when you put a dozen people in there, in an hour or two, they’ve hauled off a ton of garbage.”
Organized by the nonprofit American Littoral Society, the cleanup is intended to educate the public about the dangers that litter poses to marine life. Plastic six pack rings and fishing line are particularly perilous, since birds and fish are easily entangled and can even die from their injuries, according to Barbara Toborg, the society’s conservation coordinator.
And the fruits of Saturday’s labor will last more than a single day. Volunteers meticulously document all of the debris they encounter. By cataloging the old tires, plastic bags and styrofoam cups that wash up on individual beaches, advocacy groups and environmental officials can spot underlying trends and determine a course of action.
For example, bottles and cans that do not require a 5 cent deposit—such as those used for juices, water and sports drinks—show up on the beaches nearly twice as often as containers that have a deposit. That observation has translated into lobbying efforts to expand the deposit to more types of containers. “That’s one of the reasons we are asking our elected officials to go to the cleanup this year, so they can see how many nondeposit bottles and cans end up on the beach,” Toborg added.
Volunteers take on one of three jobs during the cleanup: picking up trash, holding open the garbage bags or recording the findings. Bags, pencils and data cards will be supplied; volunteers are asked to bring a bottle of water and sunscreen. At many of the sites, a party for the volunteers will follow.
Many volunteers are members of scouting groups and students, which allows them to exercise math and science skills while lending a hand. Dozens of other groups—from government agencies to corporations and civic associations—will also participate. Beach captains will instruct young volunteers to avoid picking up broken glass and other potentially dangerous litter.
Anyone interested in participating in the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 16 should call the Beach Cleanup Hotline at (800) 449 0790. Volunteers will be directed to the cleanup captain for the particular site they choose. Rain date will be either Sunday, Sept. 17 or Saturday, Sept. 23, depending on the particular location.