Clean Ocean Action has released its 32nd annual beach sweeps report which highlights data produced from over 70 beach sweep sites in New Jersey. The results are astounding.

Executive Director Cindy Zipf says that of the 373,686 items collected, about three quarters were the "Dirty Dozen" items commonly found on beaches.

Topping the list  for third year in a row were pieces of plastic.

Dirty Dozen

1. Plastic pieces — 56,201

2. Plastic caps or lids — 50,881

3. Food/candy wrappers — 40,227

4. Straws/filters — 31,167

5. Cigarette filters — 29,009

6. Foam pieces — 21,117

7. Plastic beverage/soda bottles — 12,114

8. Plastic shopping bags — 9,052

9. Paper pieces — 7,694

10. Cigar tips — 7,172

11. Plastic bags — 5,978

12. Lumber pieces — 5,949

Roster of the Ridiculous

The data also unveiled bizarre items recovered that is placed in a category called "The Roster of the Ridiculous." Zipf says in the past, that list has included a toilet bowl and a kitchen sink. In 2017, bizarre items recovered included a surgical mask, a bottle of Pepto Bismol, a knee brace, dentures, a human tooth in a box, a Chinese newspaper, an inflatable mattress, a birdcage, a clown nose, hula girl doll and a scarecrow.

Zipf says more than 123,000 volunteers have come out twice a year to do these beach sweeps and the data is so valuable because "we can use these numbers now to go after our municipalities and our legislators to say, 'Look, the laws we have just aren't enough or we're not enforcing them.' We really need to address this plastic problem. It is very obviously a human-caused problem."

Zipf also talks about a story out of Spain where a young sperm whale washed up on a beach with 65 pounds of plastics in its stomach.

The total number of items collected since the beach sweeps started in 1985 has gone over the 6 million mark. That would be 6,288,576 pieces of trash.

She says what's tragic about this number is that it's only a tiny amount of what's actually floating. She says we need to get better about using single use items such as straws and plastic bottles.

Zipf also wants to remind people not to release balloons into the air. In 2017, volunteers collected 4,139 balloons during the beach sweeps. Balloons are so harmful to marine life.

There is still so much more trash on Jersey beaches and as long as there's trash, these beach sweeps will continue. Zipf says the next beach sweeps is scheduled for Saturday, April 2 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., rain or shine.

To find out where there is a beach sweeps site near you or to check out the full list of The Dirty Dozen and The Roster of the Ridiculous, go to www.cleanoceanaction.org.

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