Area shorelines received a facelift as volunteers descended upon 40 area sites for the 30th annual Great Lakes Beach Sweep.
The local cleanup is a small part of a worldwide effort known as the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup.
Sharen Trembath, Lake Erie Coordinator for International Coastal Cleanup, said it is a colossal undertaking.
“It’s the largest environmental volunteer group in the world. There’s 90 countries involved and locally we have everyone from 55 different zones, from Niagara Falls down to Presque Isle, Pennsylvania,” said Trembath.
More than 600 local volunteers were expected to participate. Last year, nearly 93,000 pounds of trash were collected across New York State. The most common item was cigarette butts, followed by plastic, glass and foam items. Trembath said large debris items are a problem as well.
“A lot of times there’s buildings on the shoreline that might get eroded or go into the water and people typically just walk away. A lot of time if the Corps of Engineers knows about it they can find them or make the people pick them up. But by far a lot of this stuff gets washed out. If a boat goes down, that’s more debris too," said Trembath.
A record is kept of all the items collected during the cleanup. That information is reported to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Trembath said the result has been many changes in packaging.
“We’ve gone back to using cardboard versus the Styrofoam for fast food. We’re working on a biodegradable six-pack ring so that we don’t have the six pack rings that our birds and our wildlife get entangled in. the cruise ship industry has done away with their little bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and now they have dispensers in the room. So we’ve done some great changes just in the marine debris just by seeing what’s washing up on our shoreline,” said Trembath.
Forty local waterfront sites were addressed, including Fort Niagara State Park, Four Mile Creek, Scajaquada Creek, and the Erie Basin Marina. The cleanup is supported by the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the Aquarium of Niagara, the HSBC Water Program, and the Buffalo Sewer Authority.