More than 700 volunteers picked up nearly 3,900 pounds of trash during Explore Ecology’s Coastal Cleanup Month.
Held in partnership with the county’s Resource Recovery and Waste Management, the annual event was expanded from just a single day to an entire month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Locals were encouraged to pick up waste and trash around their neighborhoods instead of just focusing on the beach for one day.
Earlier this week, Explore Ecology revealed that they had 771 volunteers participating and picking up more than 3,889 pounds of trash, translating to roughly 16,605 pieces of litter.
“I think this was one of the most successful Coastal Cleanup Months ever for us,” Jill Cloutier, the public relations director for Explore Ecology, told the News-Press.
“Not only are we in a pandemic, but it is a challenging time right now for many people and so just that we had almost 1,000 volunteers, going out and taking time out of their busy lives and cleaning out this really inspiring for us.”
Ms. Cloutier also added that she believes there are still more people around the county that did participate but did not submit their data. If people did want to submit their data, they can do so at exploreecology.org/ccd.
Altogether, volunteers covered an estimated 64.3 miles throughout the county, which is actually more than in previous years.
“It was really surprising how many volunteers we had. Last year we had over 1,000 and this year we had 771 which was really close so that was really heartening and people covered more miles this year which was just so amazing for us and everybody,” Ms. Cloutier said.
Not surprisingly, the most picked up item this year was plastic. According to the data shared by Ms. Cloutier, 2,796 of plastic pieces were picked up followed by 2,710 cigarette butts, 1,950 food wrappers, 711 plastic water bottles, 470 Plastic Beverage Bottles, 407 straws, 388 take out containers, 350 plastic bags and 214 gloves and face coverings.
Because this year’s event was not limited to the beach, Ms. Cloutier said she thought it was more educational for people to pick up all the trash around their area.
Instead of picking up the trash near the beach, locals were instead making sure the trash never got near the ocean in the first place.
“We all live in a watershed, that’s an area of land that drains to a particular body of water. If you pick up trash in your neighborhood, part of your watershed, you are stopping the litter from heading to the ocean, so I think it was an educational moment because people realize that when they’re on walks up in the hills, nowhere even close to the ocean, most of that litter still ends up there,” she said.
The event was also a success, in part, because families used it as a time to come together.
“You wouldn’t think of it as family time, but actually it was a great way to connect with your family, be outside and have an activity and do something meaningful,” Ms. Cloutier said.
Overall, Ms. Cloutier said she was happy to see people participate in the event. While COVID-19 remains in the front of most people’s minds, the trash strewn around the county isn’t going to disappear.
“I really feel like it’s a way to feel empowered in your life and so many things right now feel a bit disempowering. This is a way where we can say ‘hey we spent an hour of our time and we really did make a difference’ so I think it’s inspiring and encouraging for people in that way,” Ms. Cloutier said.
Next year, Explore Ecology hopes to do the same thing. If the novel coronavirus pandemic subsides down by next September, she expects the Coastal Cleanup Day to happen. She also hopes that it can also extend to the entire month again to give people the opportunity to participate for however long they can.
“I feel like having the whole month to clean up made it very convenient for people. You were able to go out after work and a few volunteers even let me know that they enjoyed it so much that they’re just bringing back with them on their walks now, which is really inspiring,” she said. “They are planning to keep doing this throughout the year and that really is great for everybody involved.”