Nearly nine million people from more than 150 countries have reportedly taken part in the annual event over the last two and a half decades, helping to clean roughly 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers and oceans around the planet. The Ocean Conservancy is a non-profit environmental advocacy and education group based on Washington, DC.
The Ocean State’s arm of the cleanup is organized by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.
More locally, however, the Barrington Town Beach section of the global initiative is led by Bill Dwyer, who said a key element of the effort is data collection. Unlike many cleanups that simply send volunteers out to collect trash and debris, every item picked up during the International Coastal Cleanup is documented.
“It lets you know where the problems are and it helps you to address the problem,” said Mr. Dwyer, who cited some specific benefits for gathering such numbers.
A couple of years ago, Mr. Dwyer said he was able to present stats on the number of cigarette butts picked up during a cleanup while pushing for a smoking ban at the town beach. Mr. Dwyer said these butts are among the most harmful pieces of litter collected.
Other problematic items, said Mr. Dwyer, include fishing line and plastic bags, the latter of which has received no shortage of local attention in recent weeks.
Though Mr. Dwyer said he previously took part in cleanup efforts such as underwater collection with a group of scuba divers in Bristol, his focus now lies here in town.
“This is my town. This is the beach I clean,” he said.
“To me, you save a little bit of the planet at a time. If everybody did that, this would be a much better place.”
Mr. Dwyer said the number of volunteers who turn out for the beach cleanups can vary from year to year depending on whether a group or organization is involved. While Mr. Dwyer said a school from Connecticut helped bring one year’s number of participants to 100, other years have had closer to 20 people involved.
Those wishing to take part in this year’s cleanup should contact Mr. Dwyer by the end of August. It isn’t a necessity to participate, but it does help with making sure there are enough trash bags and T-shirts. Those taking part should plan to bring sunscreen or hats, along with water and gloves. The cleanup will run from 1 to 4 p.m.
Mr. Dwyer can be reached by e-mail at WTD@cox.net or by phone at 245-2684.
For more information on the international cleanup, visit www.oceanconservancy.org.