Registration is now open for Clean Ocean Action's 37th annual spring beach sweeps on Saturday, April 9 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., rain or shine across 74 New Jersey beaches, a record number.

Alison Jones, COA's Watershed Program Coordinator said usually these sweeps attract about 5,000 volunteers but the organization will accept as many volunteers willing to come out to the beaches.

She said these beaches are incredibly important. It's about cleaning the beaches and getting ready for the summer months for residents and visitors to enjoy.

But Jones said, more importantly, it's about the snapshot of data that is being collected at the sweeps.

"All the volunteers are acting as community scientists and are collecting information about how many of all different types of debris, mostly plastic that they're picking up off the beach and Clean Ocean Action uses all that incredible data that comes back to us to try and prevent litter at the source," Jones said.

Last year's data has not yet been released. Jones said the data will come out in an annual report set to be released on March 30.

The sweeps will hopefully get people to be more mindful of litter that they may be responsible for and make the connection between what we do on land to what the impact is on marine environments and the shores, she said.

Plastics, including foam, are the most commonly found items on the beach, making up about 80% of the finds, Jones said. Other items on the "Dirty Dozen" list include plastic bottle caps, cigarette filters, plastic straws, foam pieces, cigar tips, food, and candy wrappers.

However, there have been some unusual finds as well. In 2020, volunteers picked up a Trump flag, a wedding souvenir glass, a fit bit, an iPhone, a printing cartridge, a cocktail shaker, and a pregnancy test.

Over the past 35 years of beach sweeps, 7,424,453 cumulative items have been removed by volunteers from Jersey Shore beaches.

To become a volunteer, simply visit www.cleanoceanaction.org and pick a beach location of your choosing.

Jones said this year, Clean Ocean Action is asking volunteers to bring their own buckets to collect beach debris. This will help reduce the number of plastic trash bags given out during the sweeps. Volunteers may also want to bring their own gloves and wear hard-soled shoes.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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