International Coastal Cleanup Sept. 19 (Released: 9/15/98)
by Peg Van Patten, Connecticut Sea Grant
Storrs , Conn. -- Coastweeks '98, a nationwide celebration of our nation's coastlines, begins on Sept. 19 with the International Coastal Cleanup, coordinated at the national level by the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C.
At least 500 Connecticut citizens are expected to beamong the 350,000 volunteers expected to participate in 90 countries,. At present, 29 sites on the Connecticut shoreline are scheduled for the cleanup, according to Peg Van Patten, communications director for Connecticut Sea Grant at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point. Van Patten is coordinating the state's participation for the 11th year.
"Our coasts are not only among the nation's most valuable resources, they are also among the most vulnerable," Van Patten said. "The cleanup is a great opportunity to focus attention on the varied environments and economic resources the Long Island Sound and our rivers and seas provide."
Coastal cleanups are planned at many locations in Connecticut, organized by both concerned groups and individuals. Last year, 555 volunteers collected 14,344 pounds of trash on 17.5 miles of beach.
Local organizers and supporters this year include environmental organizations, educational groups, aquaria, youth groups, and individuals. Cleanup volunteers don't just pick up trash: they catalog every item on tally sheets, for entry into a computer marine debris database, making the information available for use in determining the scope of the debris problem, its distribution and type, and potential sources of the debris.
Volunteers make notes about stranded or entangled animals, too. Wildlife are harmed by both entanglement in debris and ingestion of debris, particularly plastic products that persist in the environment, Van Patten said.
Sometimes the data can identify specific problems, for example the attention recently brought to the problems of cigarette butts accumulating in the sand, and dumping on marshes to avoid landfill fees. Recent data in Connecticut showed that medical waste was not a significant problem, and that about 60% of the debris found is still plastic, as in the past.
Unlike some states, Connecticut's cleanup has no formal funding from government agencies, so it is truly a grass roots volunteer effort for all involved. Connecticut Sea Grant has constructed a web page to post the cleanup locations in Connecticut, as well as their sponsors. Volunteers are urged to wear sturdy shoes, bring gloves, and use mosquito repellent if necessary. Check in with a designated cleanup organizer to get an official tally card, trash bag, and good advice. Volunteers will receive coupons for a free Brita water filtration pitcher while supplies last.
For more information, contact Connecticut Sea Grant at (860) 405-9141.
Note: New Haven activities begin early with the first cleanup led by Peter Davis, Riverkeeper, on Sept. 17. Schooner Inc. will host a cleanup Sept. 19 at Lighthouse Park.