Several spots along the New Jersey shoreline of the Delaware River are packed with litter either left behind by careless visitors or that washed ashore from the waterway, environmentalists say.

Only a few of these hot spots, though, are truly accessible and safe for folks willing to clean up the mess.

Such cleanups have been occurring since 2016, courtesy of Clean Ocean Action and teams of citizen science volunteers. And at just four spots, out of 20 that are considered to be problem areas for litter along the Delaware, volunteers collected tens of thousands of pieces of debris, COA noted during a webinar on Tuesday.

"Almost 90% of the debris that we're finding there is plastic," said Alison Jones, watershed program coordinator for the Long Branch-based group.

The group's staff used a portion of the program to remind the public of major laws taking effect next year that should put a dent in the amount of plastic in circulation, and to note other potential laws that could limit plastic pollution even further.

Compared to the group's beach sweeps, which have been going on for decades, cleanups at the Delaware River locations have recorded a greater share of plastics (90% versus 83%), particularly foam plastic, Jones noted.

The group's cleanup efforts have been focused on four spots along the New Jersey shoreline of the Delaware: Lamberton Road in Trenton; Taylor Wildlife Preserve in Cinnaminson; Orange Palmyra Cove Nature Park; and two locations in West Deptford that are less than a mile apart.

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Along the Delaware, plastic beverage bottles were the most commonly collected item from 2016 through 2019. Volunteers gathered 17,888 of them over 25 cleanups. No. 2 was foam pieces. Together, the top 2 of the "dirty dozen" accounted for 43% of the debris collected. During beach sweeps in 2019, those two items represented only 8% of debris.

Clean Ocean Action and other groups are hoping for passage of a "recycled content bill," before it dies in the Legislature, that would establish postconsumer recycled content requirements for certain products, and prohibit the sale of packing peanuts and similar packaging products.

Starting in May 2022, New Jersey stores and retailers will be banned from providing single-use plastic carryout bags to consumers. Single-use paper bags will be prohibited at grocery stores that are at least 2,500 square feet. Already in effect is a rule that prohibits eateries from voluntarily providing plastic straws to consumers.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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