Successes & weird finds at International Coastal Cleanup Day

An estimated 900 Save the Sound volunteers hit 31 Connecticut beaches last Saturday and Sunday for International Coastal Cleanup Day. Local land trusts and conservation groups, a SCUBA club, Bridgeport’s US District Court, businesses, and hundreds of high school and college students came out to pick up trash from their favorite spots across Connecticut’s shoreline.

Unusual finds included a carburetor at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, a battered golf club at Longshore Country Club in Westport, and a foam block with flowers growing out of it in East Haven’s Farm River Estuary.

Another 19 cleanups are planned for upcoming weekends. Interested volunteers may still register for public cleanups online.

Each September, the International Coastal Cleanup, founded by Ocean Conservancy 33 years ago, brings together millions of volunteers to remove trash from coastlines around the world. Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, has been Connecticut Coordinator for the event since 2002.

“International Coastal Cleanup volunteers don’t just pick up trash, they also help keep trash from ever reaching beaches by stopping it at the source,” said Soundkeeper Bill Lucey. “Each and every item a volunteer picks up is tracked and reported to Ocean Conservancy so it can be included in the annual global marine debris report. We use that info to identify trends in trash, and develop strategies to reduce it.

“Last year Save the Sound cleanup volunteers picked up 3,381 plastic straws and drink stirrers, and 1,288 plastic grocery bags. When we get the full results from year’s cleanups back later this fall, we’re hoping to see those numbers start to go down. People are definitely starting to realize the power they have to keep plastic and Styrofoam off Connecticut’s storm drains and coastline, by simply using reusable travel mugs and water bottles, skipping straws, and bringing your own bag to the store,” Lucey said.

In the past seven years alone, over 14,000 local volunteers have picked up 50 tons of litter and debris from Connecticut’s beaches, rivers, coastal marshes, and island shores. Last year saw 1,631 volunteers gather at 61 different sites to rid Connecticut’s shorelines of 8,563 pounds of trash.

Save the Sound’s 2018 Coastal Cleanup season kicked off in late August with cleanups in West Haven and Darien, and continues through October with a total of over 55 cleanups. This year Save the Sound has a special focus on plastics, including plastic bags, straws, and other trash that harms wildlife that ingest or become tangled in it.

This year’s corporate sponsors of International Coastal Cleanup in Connecticut are Subaru of New England; Halstead International and FactSet, both based in Norwalk; and FORMA Therapeutics, based in Branford.