Calling all beach sweepers! It's time to clean up the Jersey Shore!

Clean Ocean Action's 36th annual Fall Beach Sweeps is scheduled for Saturday, October 23, rain or shine at 70 beach cleanup sites statewide.

Cleanup is from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at simultaneous sweeps on that day, said Alison Jones, COA's Watershed Program Coordinator.

Volunteers will come out to clean up the beaches and record every single item that they pick up on a Clean Ocean Action beach sweeps data card. Jones said all of that data gets sent into the COA and is part of a huge database spanning decades, which helps them understand trends in the data, and informs them so they're able to advocate for policies that ultimately help to reduce all that debris at the source.

There are 2,500 volunteers who have signed up to participate in the sweeps. But more are needed. In the April 2021 beach sweeps, there were 4,000 volunteers. Jones said registration is still being accepted up until the event date. To register or to find a beach sweeps site, go to www.cleanoceanaction.org.

"We do this event in late October because it's capturing all the debris that may have been left on beaches throughout the summer season and also all the debris that come from upstream sources all summer. The idea is to give the beaches one good clean sweep before the winter," said Jones.

It's important to learn what debris is making its way out into the waterways and back onto the beaches, she added.

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The most commonly found items on the beaches in past years are referred to as "The Dirty Dozen." Jones said those items stay pretty consistent from year to year. Those include plastic pieces, plastic bottle caps and lids, candy wrappers, cigarette filters, plastic straws and stirrers and foam pieces.

Then, there is the "Roster of the Ridiculous." Jones said this list is always interesting. In years past, volunteers have picked up some very strange things on Jersey beaches during the sweeps including New Year's Eve party hats, ski mask, back scrubber, a paint set, Christmas lights, wigs, a tooth in a container, a toilet seat and even a check for $81.

"You never know what you will find out here on the Jersey Shore," she laughed.

The spring 2020 Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps was canceled due to COVID-19. But in October 2020, Jones said 4,000 volunteers collected 185,221 items at 68 beach sites. In a normal year, when both beach sweeps are conducted, that number usually doubles to about 350,000 items collected on beaches.

Volunteers are asked to bring gloves, water and their own buckets for debris collection. Jones said by doing so, it cuts down on the number of trash bags used at the beach sweeps.

"It's all about reducing our use of single-use plastic to go along with the message of the beach sweeps," Jones said.

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