Autumn at the Jersey shore means the crowds have gone, the water is cooler — and things like a plastic heel from a shoe, a surgical mask and toothbrush heads can be found on the sand.
Clean Ocean Action held its annual fall beach cleanups in 60 spots up and down the Jersey shore, removing thousands of items that were either left behind by beachgoers or that washed up with the tides after being discarded elsewhere.
Underwear; weather-stripping materials; a baseball; diapers; a leg from a baby doll; a fishing pole; pieces of a pier; and bubble wands were among the stranger items collected by volunteers at Point Pleasant Beach.
On Sandy Hook alone, volunteers picked up nearly 3,500 food and candy wrappers; 142 rubber balloons; 3,300 plastic straws and stirrers; more than 100 plastic light sticks; and nearly 600 plastic forks, knives and spoons.
"Human trash is now found on every shoreline in the world and throughout the global ocean," said Cindy Zipf, the group's executive director. "Human trash not only makes beaches ugly, it maims and kills marine life. We must do more to reduce plastic pollution, and beach sweeps are one way citizens can help."
The group conducts cleanups each spring and fall along the coast. Since 1985, over 90,000 volunteers have removed over 4.5 million pieces of debris from New Jersey's beaches and waterways.
"The abundance of waste and floatable debris found on New Jersey's beaches is shocking," said Valerie Montecalvo, president of Bayshore Recycling Corporation. "The survival of our ocean and its precious ecosystems are vital to the existence of mankind and its future generations."
Participants log each item on scorecards that are then tabulated as part of the group's efforts to document pollution and press for stronger laws protecting the coastal environment.