DOVER – This year’s Delaware Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 17 drew 2,222 volunteers, who collected 10.7 tons of trash from more than 40 sites along more than 80 miles of Delaware’s waterways and coastline stretching from Wilmington to Fenwick Island. This year, nearly 4 tons of that trash was recycled, including about 1.7 tons of tires and hundreds of aluminum cans and glass and plastic beverage containers.
“Thanks to everyone who supported the cleanup,” said Governor Jack Markell. “This proves that when we work together, we can make a positive impact on our environment. Thanks to the many hands of volunteers, more than 10 tons of trash has been recycled or properly disposed of instead of littering our beautiful beaches.”
“This year, Delaware became one of a handful of Coastal Cleanup sites nationally and internationally to introduce recycling as part of the event. Our volunteers did an outstanding job gathering and separating trash from recyclables, and as a result, for the first time in more than 20 years of the Delaware Coastal Cleanup, more than a third of our trash tonnage was recycled instead of going to a landfill,” said DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara.
“We also had excellent support from this year’s sponsors. Delmarva Power has supported our Cleanup by donating t-shirts since the beginning almost 25 years ago, the Playtex Division of Energizer Personal Care has provided gloves for our volunteers for the last several years, and our newest sponsor, Waste Management, picked up the trash and recyclables from all of our sites,” said Jack Hoban, Delaware Coastal Cleanup coordinator.
This year’s biggest surprise came the day after the Cleanup, when several Delaware Bay beach communities found their beaches again covered with trash. “We believe this trash was storm debris that washed downstream as a result of flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. This additional trash, which was picked up both during and after Sept. 17, accounted for the overall increase in trash picked up this year over last,” said Hoban. Over the last several cleanups, he noted that Delaware had seen a decrease in trash amounts. Last year’s cleanup netted 9.4 tons of trash.
To assist the communities hardest hit by the additional trash, DNREC extended Coastal Cleanup resources, supplying gloves, trash bags and technical support to help communities including Slaughter and Broadkill beaches clean up the additional trash. A total of more than 90 medical syringes were found before, during and after Sept. 17, believed to be part of the flood-related debris. The syringes were collected separately from the trash and properly disposed of, with support from DNREC’s Emergency Response Team.
On the annual list of interesting or unusual items found were a BMX bicycle, barbed wire, a propane tank, a woman’s wig, a retainer for braces, a flag pole, bikini bottoms, a full bottle of whiskey, 14 appliances, a port-a-potty and a rodent trap. Some items were notable in their numbers. Statewide, volunteers picked up 10,932 cigarette and cigar butts, 143 old tires, more than 3,000 plastic bags, 1,612 fishing-related items and more than 38,000 pieces of food/beverage-related trash, including more than 12,000 recyclable plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers.
“If we could get one message out this year it’s that throwing a cigarette or cigar butt on the ground is littering,” Hoban added. “We found less smoking-related items this year but the numbers are still too high.”
Organized by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware Coastal Cleanup is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy’s flagship program dealing with marine debris and data collection. The types and quantities of trash collected are recorded on data cards and forwarded to the Center for Marine Conservation, which compiles the information to help identify the source of the debris and focus efforts on eliminating or reducing it.
Delaware’s next Coastal Cleanup is set for Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Volunteers are encouraged to pre-register to ensure sites receive enough supplies. Interested volunteers can check out DNREC’s website at www.dnrec.delaware.gov next summer for registration information.
For more information on The Ocean Conservancy or the International Coastal Cleanup, visit the Conservancy’s website at www.oceanconservancy.org.