STEVENSVILLE — Kent Island Beach Cleanups founder Kristin Weed reported the local effort during the Ocean Conservancy’s 32nd International Coastal Cleanup on Sept. 16 was the biggest and most successful yet. The cleanup is the world’s largest single-day volunteer effort to remove trash from local beaches and waterways.
“We had great weather. We had a tremendous turnout,” Weed said. “It was crazy. I’m so happy.”
The total of 239 volunteers turned out to pick up trash at 11 waterfront sites in Queen Anne’s County: Terrapin Park, Old Love Point Park, Hemingway’s Beach, Metapeake Beach and Fishing Pier, Romancoke Landing, Kent Narrows Landing, Ferry Point Park, Bennett Point Landing, Centreville Landing, the fishing area and parking lot between the Jetty and Bridges restaurants and Cloverfields Beach, which was added the day of the event, Weed said.
All the sites had a good turnout, she said, “even Centreville, (where) we don’t have a huge prescence, but people came out.” The other new site this year, besides Cloverfields, was Matapeake, which could become two sites in the future — the beach and the pier, Weed said. Matapeake was eye opening for volunteers, being located right on the Bay, she said. “When people are out here, getting their hands dirty, seeing all this garbage with their own eyes, touching it, that’s when they’re impacted the most,” Weed said. “And as much as we would like to pick up less trash, we have a long way to go to get to that point, if ever. More volunteers means we are going to pick up more trash, so our numbers won’t go down, at least not now. Whether people want to admit it or not this county has a real trash problem. My volunteers neighbors and friends tell me about how they see people throwing trash out of their car windows all of the time. People toss cigarettes out of their cars and it’s socially accepted, and that is garbage too. It’s not just pollution at the beaches that trash eventually makes its way to the water. So, our efforts and the efforts of our volunteers will always be needed until people stop polluting. “My hope is people develop a sense of awareness, and it’s a learning moment.”
The KIBCU volunteers were among hundreds of thousands of people who participated worldwide. Of the 239 local volunteers, 156 of them were students, she said. The environmental science class from Archbishop Spalding High School was back; their teacher Christina Mohs was site captain at Kent Narrows. There were National Honor Society students from Southern High School, the Oceans Club at the Naval Academy, a church group and more. The cleanup at Cloverfields was done by Kent Island High School student Sophie Solomon and her mom Laney. “All three interns really helped at all the locations,” Weed said. The cleanup officially ran from 8 a.m. to noon, and volunteers picked up and logged more than 29,000 individual pieces of trash. “We completely lost count of actual weight in trash as we had several items that were not in trash bags, and trash bag count was also lost this year. We can imagine it is more than last year, obviously,” Weed said. “The more people you have, the more trash you collect.” The largest item found this year was a ditched catamaran at Terrapin. As it was too big to be “collected,” volunteers just documented it and KIBCU notified the parks department that it needed removed. “We also found a lot of clothes, more this year than ever,” Weed said. Other unique items included a lawn chair, a couple of trash cans, a traffic cone and a table. Fishing line continues to be a problem; people aren’t using the disposal containers, she said. Volunteers picked up more than 1,000 pieces of line and nearly 1,000 pieces of fishing net. Volunteers also found evidence of drinking and drug use at the beaches.
“Centreville Landing had over 90 small liquor bottles just sitting around,” Weed said. And at Matapeake Pier they found drug paraphernalia — a glass bong.
The top three items recovered during the 2017 ICC by KIBCU teams were plastic pieces, 5,352; cigarete butts, 4,681; and glass pieces, 4,155. Food wrappers, which topped the list last year, fell to number five this year with 2,208, behind foam pieces, 2,345. Recording and sorting their finds helps raise awareness of the trash problem.“I really want this to be an eye-opening, learning experience,” Weed said. “People are impacted when they see it laying all out. “Some of these items are older than me and my board.”
Every year, millions of tons of trash — including an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste — flow into the ocean, entangling wildlife, polluting beaches and costing coastal communities hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Ocean Conservancy. Cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws are among the most commonly collected items worldwide. They are also among the most deadly to wildlife like seabirds and sea turtles. Plastics — which never fully biodegrade but rather break up into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics — are of particular concern. Since the first ICC over 30 years ago, more than 12 million volunteers have removed more than 220 million pounds of trash, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
Ocean Conservancy is consolidating data sent in from partner organizations around the globe and will release a report in early 2018 of the global impact of the 2017 ICC. During the 2016 ICC, more than 500,000 volunteers worldwide removed more than 18 million pounds of trash.
Among things learned for next year, KIBCU could really use two site captains per location — “and I need three of me,” Weed said with a laugh. “My board member Bill Key and I spent the day driving between the sites, handing out more supplies, snacks, water, taking pictures, greeting volunteers, etc.,” she said. More volunteers and donations are always welcome. The next beach cleanup is the final one for the season. It is planned for the Kent Narrows Fishing Pier area on Oct. 21. The cleanup begins at 8 a.m. and runs until noon, but volunteers don’t have to commit to the entire four hours. KIBCU provides gloves, trash bags, rakes, trash pickers, buckets, snacks and water. Volunteers should bring their own reusable water bottle to fill. Volunteers under age 18 must have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian giving them permission to participate. All volunteers must sign a participation waiver.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Weed by calling 410-458-1240 or emailing kristin@kentisland beachcleanups.com, or they may contact her through KI Beach Cleanups’ website, www.kentislandbeachclean ups.com, or on the group’s Facebook page.