On one of the coldest Earth Days we can remember, during a bizarre pandemic requiring drastic changes in our daily lives, more than 60 hardy souls ventured out into the world to participate in the First Annual Virtual Actual Earth Day Cleanup, sponsored by the Center for Coastal Studies. Working alone or in small, safe groups, these intrepid volunteers cleaned dunes, beaches, river banks, forests, parks, streets and neighborhoods from Maine to West Virginia, united in their separate but collective efforts to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
Participants included elementary & high school students, poets, Americorps service members, families, restaurant owners, teachers, musicians, fishermen, chefs, therapists, artists, PhDs, businessmen and women, scientists, and friends.
Hundreds of pounds of debris was collected, including construction debris, plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic cups, fishing gear, cigarettes, Styrofoam, clothing pieces, and the occasional furniture.
By count (from the 18 data cards we received), the top ten items collected primarily from Cape Cod beaches were familiar to anyone who cleans a beach anywhere around the world:
1. Nondescript plastic pieces
2. Styrofoam packing/pieces
4. Plastic wrapping
5. Food wrappers
6. Cans (beverage)
7. Rope < 1 m
8. Plastic bags
9. Cigarette butts
10. Plastic bottles
About a dozen items of personal protective equipment were recovered (gloves, wipes). Among the more interesting items were a life-size clear plastic centipede, clay skeets, a toy train car wrapped in 60 feet of film plastic, and a bag of ground beef and sliced turkey.
Perhaps the most surprising find among the inventoried debris was that even though they are still in the top-ten list, plastic bottles fell in the ranks, perhaps reflecting the Cape Cod community’s trend away from single-use plastic.
CCS is grateful to everyone who participated in Earth Day Cleanups, and encourage you to continue your efforts by signing up for Take Care Cape Cod’s “Think Like It’s 1620” campaign, which asks volunteers to recognize the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims by spending 16 minutes 20 seconds a month collecting trash from your neighborhood.