Volunteers pick up and record beach trash. Photo courtesy Clean Ocean Action
Clean Ocean Action's Beach Sweep
In 1984, New Jersey was known as the ocean-dumping
capital of the nation. There were eight ocean dumpsites off the New
Jersey/New York coastline, and pollution was ruining the state's
beaches. Today, the pollution problem remains an ongoing
educational challenge. It originates from many diverse sources,
such as runoff from urban, suburban, or agricultural areas, street
litter, automotive drippings, and animal wastes. The collective
impact of these sources close more beaches, taint more shellfish
beds, and pollute inshore waters more than any single pollution
source. Since 1985, the Beach Sweep has been one of Clean Ocean
Action's tools for educating the public about pollution. New Jersey
beaches are "swept" along the entire coast: from Raritan Bay,
through Sandy Hook, down to Cape May Point, and along the Delaware
Participants not only remove the unsightly debris
from beaches and waterways, they also record what they pick up, and
the data is used to track pollution trends, educate the public, and
help find solutions to the pollution problem. All the information
is submitted to the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington,
D.C., as part of the worldwide effort against ocean pollution.
Clean Ocean Action's Beach Sweeps is one of the
longest running cleanups in the world. The cleanup first started in
1985 at Sandy Hook with 75 volunteers. The volunteers were given
different color T-shirts, each color designating a different type
of item the volunteer was to collect. The T-shirts represented the
major categories of beach trash: plastic, glass, metal, wood, and
Clean Ocean Action developed a video called "Clean
Beach...Naturally" to further educate the public about the goals of
beach cleanups and the negative impact that marine debris has on
marine life and to encourage further participation in the
To reduce one source of marine debris, Clean Ocean
Action developed a storm drain stenciling program in 1988 to
educate the public about storm water run-off and serve as a
reminder to communities that whatever goes into street and storm
drains affects animals and plan life of streams, rivers, lakes,
back bays and oceans. The program was extended to a week-long event
in 1993 and became a bi-annual event, like the Beach Sweeps, in
The Beach Sweeps went statewide in the spring of 1991
as the cleanup included Atlantic and Cape May Counties. That same
year a computer program was developed to analyze the data collected
during the cleanup. With the opening of the South Jersey office in
1993, the Beach Sweeps went statewide for both the spring and fall
cleanups, and locations along the Delaware Bay were added. In that
year, over 2,500 volunteers hit the beach, removing over 130,000
pieces of debris from New Jersey beaches.
In 1994, Clean Ocean Action produced its first report
on beach debris in New Jersey. The report was presented at the
first international Coastal Cleanup conference in Washington, D.C.
that same year.
By 1996, the Beach Sweeps had moved inland to include
rivers, lakes, and streams. In 1997, Clean Ocean Action went online
with their web site, which includes extensive information about
marine debris collected during the Beach Sweeps.
In 1999, nearly 5,000 volunteered at 92 locations in
the state. Since 1985, over 30,600 volunteers have participated in
the Beach Sweeps, resulting in 100,200 volunteer hours for the
environment. Their efforts have resulted in millions of pieces of
debris removed from New Jersey's beaches. A value for this cleanup
effort has been estimated at over one billion dollars.
Project documentation comprises a report, a one-page
synopsis, a press release and a video.
Originally submitted by: Frank Pallone, Jr., Representative (6th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.