More than 5 million pieces of debris have been collected since Clean Ocean Action started holding yearly beach sweeps each spring and fall — and the agency is gearing up for its 31st Annual event this Saturday.

Gianna Fischer, Dery Bennett Fellow for Ocean Advocacy at Clean Ocean Action, pointed out that the ocean economy in New Jersey is huge.

"A lot of New Jersey residents rely heavily on tourism and fishing to make a living, but beyond that cleaning the beaches sends a really important message to everybody to raise awareness of the problems we're facing related to water quality issues and plastic pollution, among a number of other things," Fischer said.

Beach Sweeps volunteers (Clean Ocean Action)

Complete docks, full bottles of wine, tires and needles are among the things Clean Ocean Action has found during beach clean-ups — as well as some interesting items. Among them: a mason jar filled with two cloth dolls tied together, along with a note about them being twins.

"It was in Spanish, so they actually had to have somebody translate the letter, and they said that it looked like it was decades old," Fischer said.

Fewer pieces of debris usually are found in the fall than during the spring beach sweeps, according to Fischer.

"We do have lower attendance in the fall, but also in the fall, the beaches have been raked up until usually September or mid-September, so we're finding less debris. When we clean up in April, they haven't been raked all winter, and then it also has a lot to do with weather, so if the week leading up to the sweeps we have heavy winds, heavy rains, that will definitely increase the number of debris that we're finding," Fischer said.

Clean Ocean Action is expecting upward of 3,000 volunteers to participate in Saturday's sweeps, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., covering more than 70 sites statewide.

Volunteers should wear hard-soled and closed-toe shoes and bring gloves. Participants also are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles.

Those interested can view a list of available locations at and register online.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at

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