PROVIDENCE — Save The Bay will lead the 2019 Rhode Island coastal cleanup, part of an international effort by the Ocean Conservancy that involves more than a million volunteers removing trash from coastlines around the world.
More than 2,500 Rhode Islanders are expected to participate in the event, now in its 34th year. In addition to removing trash, volunteers record what they collect, providing valuable data on the materials are making their way into the ocean and onto shore.
July Lewis Save the Bay volunteer and internship manager, said additional cleanup volunteers are always welcome.
"Every year, we are amazed by how many people care deeply about our shoreline, and are willing to say ‘it's not OK to trash the bay,’” she said. “These community volunteers play a pivotal role in preserving shorelines for recreation and protecting the health of our oceans. We’re always looking for more people to join the cleanup effort.”
A cleanup is scheduled on Sept. 21 for the Weekapaug Breachway in Westerly. On separate cleanups of the Westerly and Charlestown shorelines, also on Sept. 21, volunteers will receive additional support from the Rhode Island Mobile Sportfishermen.
The Westerly Town Beach cleanup will take place on Sept. 14. Charlestown cleanups will be on Sept. 21 at the Charlestown Breachway and Blue Shutters Beach.
Each year, the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., publishes a report documenting the amounts and types of trash removed from shorelines around the world, and the Rhode Island data is both shocking and impressive.
In 2018, 2,293 Rhode Islanders participated in the cleanup, removing 13,389 pounds of trash from 88 miles of the state’s coastline. Smaller pieces of plastic and foam constituted 28 percent of items collected. Cigarette butts accounted for 25 percent, with 38,427 collected, and 36,099 plastic bottles, cans, straws and coffee stirrers made up 23 percent of the collected waste.
“Marine debris is a global problem that requires a host of solutions,” said Allison Schutes, director of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. “Improving waste infrastructure in key areas, reducing our use of single-use plastics and moving towards a circular economy are all necessary to stop the flow of trash into our ocean, but cleaning up our beaches and waterways is an important piece of that puzzle, and we are so grateful for the hard work of Save The Bay and all the Rhode Island volunteers in helping us achieve our shared vision for a cleaner, healthier ocean.”
More information on the International Coastal Cleanup, including dates and times for Rhode Island cleanups, is available on the Save The Bay website: savebay.org/icc