This is a guest blog post from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, written by Claudia Geib.
What do a couch cushion, corn cob pipe, toenail clipper, fake mustache, and cement dragon have in common? They’re all items that were found on Massachusetts beaches during last year’s COASTSWEEP beach cleanup, organized by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).
Each year, COASTSWEEP recruits volunteers to help remove trash like this from the state’s shoreline over a series of cleanups that start in early September. These cleanups not only serve to help keep the Bay State beautiful, but also gather information for the Ocean Conservancy to be used in shaping education and policy initiatives.
Even though September seems a long way away, preparing for COASTSWEEP 2015 starts now, and we need local cleanup coordinators to help us cover the coasts. Local coordinators choose a beach to clean and then rally friends, family, and community members to help remove marine debris. CZM provides instructions and all supplies, including trash bags, gloves, and data cards to record items found during each cleanup.
Last year, 2,845 volunteers removed 11,842 pounds of trash from 136 miles of Massachusetts beaches. The top 10 types of debris collected included cigarettes, plastic bottles, and food wrappers. Even with a 30-pound cement dragon adding its weight to the final total, this is an immense amount of trash that might have otherwise been left on our beaches.
Without COASTSWEEP cleanups, that trash might have gone on to entangle a turtle or damage the hull of a boat when it was washed back out to sea. It could have injured a child walking on the beach or slowly released toxins into the stomach of a fish that mistook it for food. Marine debris is a danger to animals and humans alike, and one that is growing: Many types of marine debris are made of man-made materials that decompose slowly, even over the span of hundreds of years. This makes it possible for debris to build up in the marine ecosystem very quickly.
As a local COASTSWEEP coordinator, you can do your part to reduce the marine debris problem. To sign up, visit the CZM website. To volunteer at a cleanup, check the CZM cleanup listing starting in August for a schedule of upcoming events in your area.
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