Flotsam and jetsam have drifted onto Island shores for centuries, although the volume and toxicity of beach trash has increased dramatically during modern times.
Today plastic trash is a blot on beaches, but thankfully it can be reduced simply by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.
The Vineyard Conservation Society’s annual Earth Day beach clean-up, set for tomorrow, attempts to address the problem of beach trash by doing just that. In partnership with volunteers and organizations Island-wide, the cleanup takes place from 10 a.m. to noon on beaches around the Island.
Since the inception of the event 17 years ago, cleanup organizers have been adding beaches and bringing new partners to the effort. This year sponsors include the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, Comcast, SBS and radio station WMVY. Volunteer groups include the YMCA, the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters and Rod and Gun clubs, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), to name a few. But the bulk of the work comes from Islanders willing to donate their time to clean up the Vineyard’s virtual backyard: its beaches.
The cleanup this year also includes some fun: there will be a children’s raffle for a gift certificate to Riley’s Reads and a post-event barbecue at SBS in Vineyard Haven as a thank-you to volunteers. “This year, we’re trying to make it more of a party for everyone. It’s a fun day, a family day, and an opportunity to communicate environmental awareness,” said Brendan O’Neill, executive director of the conservation society. “And it’s a way to get out and appreciate our beaches,” he added.
In past cleanups, most items picked up by far are plastics. And fortunately, the people who enjoy Island beaches tend to be more environmentally conscious. “Most of what we see is blown inland, as the Vineyard does a pretty good job of managing litter,” said JoAnn Taylor, a coastal planner for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. “But we still see a lot of cans and bottles, especially at the public landings. Also, a lot of helium balloon remnants, with the nylon ribbons, fishing line . . . these are the recreational types of trash that are found.”
Once it is gathered, the beach trash will be hauled to a staging area to be sorted. Much of it will go to Seamass in Rochester, where it will be incinerated.
Volunteers are asked to go to one of the following supervised beaches between 10 a.m. and noon tomorrow:
Bend in the Road Beach, South Beach, Wilson’s Landing and Lighthouse Beach in Edgartown; Little Bridge, town beach at Sea View and Jetty Beach in Oak Bluffs; Eastville Beach, Vineyard Haven Harbor at Tisbury Texaco, Lagoon Pond town landing, Lake street Landing on Tashmoo, Tashmoo opening and Owen Park Beach in Vineyard Haven; Lambert’s Cove Beach and Cedar Tree Neck in West Tisbury; Menemsha Beach in Chilmark; and Lobsterville Beach and Moshup Beach in Aquinnah.
Gloves, bags and assistance will be provided, but bring your own bags and gardening gloves if preferred.
For details on volunteering, call the conservation society at 508-693-9588, or visit vcsmv.org.