Volunteers wanted for International Coastal Cleanup
STEVENSVILLE — Kent Island Beach Cleanups is looking for volunteers for the biggest local cleanup of the year. KIBCU is participating in the Ocean Conservancy’s upcoming International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 15. Held annually on the third Saturday in September, the cleanup is the world’s largest single-day volunteer effort to remove trash from local beaches and waterways.
“This is our seventh year doing the Coastal Cleanup,” said Kristin Weed, KIBCU founder. KIBCU has participated in the ICC every year since Weed started the local organization, and each year’s cleanup has topped the last.
In the 2017 effort, 239 volunteers turned out to pick up trash at 11 waterfront sites in Queen Anne’s County, logging more than 29,000 individual pieces of trash.
“Having people come out and see it changes things,” Weed said. Participating in an event like the ICC is impactful, she added. “They go home and look at things differently. It raises awareness ….
“The issue is using something once and throwing it away,” she continued. “Ninety to 95 percent of what we pick up was only used once by its original owner. Almost everything you see on that beach was used one time. That’s really sad.”
This year cleanups are planned for 10 sites: Terrapin Beach Park; Old Love Point Park; Hemingway’s Restaurant Beach; Metapeake Beach; Matapeake Fishing Pier; Romancoke Landing and Pier; Kent Narrows Landing and Pier; Ferry Point Park; Bennett Point Landing and Pier; and Centreville Landing and Pier. With board members, interns and returning volunteers signed up as site captains, what is needed now is volunteers — hands to pick up the trash.
The cleanup begins at 8 a.m. and runs until noon, but volunteers don’t have to commit to the entire four hours.
“You can come when you want and stay as long as you want,” Weed said.
Volunteers can sign up in advance or just show up on the day of the cleanup. They can choose to work at whatever site they want. If they have no preference, Weed will suggest a site that needs more volunteers.
Students are encouraged to participate. It’s a great way for them to earn service hours, Weed said. However, volunteers under age 18 must have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian giving them permission to participate. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult or sibling over 16. All volunteers must sign a participation waiver.
KIBCU provides cleanup supplies, such as gloves, buckets, trash pickers and trash bags, but if you have your own supplies (like buckets or gloves), bring them, Weed said.
Donations of items, such as gloves and trash bags, are always welcome, but Weed asks individuals and businesses contact the group in advance. KIBCU is a certified 501(c)3 nonprofit; donations are taxdeductible.
“We need more trash pickers; there’s never enough,” she added. Not everyone needs a trash picker, but they are good for the elderly, for anyone who has trouble bending and for reaching into bushes, she said.
The organization does not want bottled water. Volunteers should bring their own reusable water bottle to fill. KIBCU provides water to fill your bottle, but no longer provides bottled water in effort to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic, Weed said. A light snack is also provided.
Volunteers team up and work in groups. They count the trash collected.
“We record everything we pick up,” Weed said. Clipboards and forms are provided; each volunteer uses hash marks to track the trash collected. The records become part of the Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean trash index, which is the world’s largest item-by-item, location-by-location database of trash found along the shore.
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 in 2016, fell to number five in 2017 with 2,208, behind foam pieces, 2,345.
Unusual items found last year included a catamaran, a lawn chair, trash cans, a traffic cone and a table.
KIBCU’s event is the largest ICC cleanup on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“Pictures and data … are so powerful. This is stuff we can document to fight for policy changes,” Weed said.
Once everything collected during the International Coastal Cleanup is counted, it’s bagged and left for the park rangers to pick up and take to the dump.
“I would love to be able to recycle it,” Weed said. “One day I would like to be able to sort it for pick up (separating the trash and debris from recyclables). I would love to have the recyclables recycled.”
With the floodgates at the Conowingo Dam being opened last month and widespread media coverage of the large amount of debris dumped into the Chesapeake Bay, Weed said she hope it mobilizes more people to come out.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the world, and Weed said she’d like to see a multi-state summit to address issues like the Conowingo Dam debris. Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., are all part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
“No one environmental group of any sort can take this on. It’s too massive. Everybody needs to do this,” Weed said. “We had a lot of trash on our beaches before this event. We’ve been doing this for six and a half years. We have trash all the time.”
But efforts like KIBCU’s and the Ocean Conservancy are making a difference.
“The small wins and the small steps really do matter. We just have to be patient,” Weed said. “It’s just a matter o getting people to make one small change …. It can have a big impact.”
For more information or to sign up, find Kent Island Beach Cleanups page on Facebook or go to www.kentislandbeachcleanups.com.
Volunteers pick up trash on the beach during the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup.
Plastics are deadly to wildlife like seabirds and sea turtles.