Portsmouth High senior organized cleanup of Sandy Point Beach

Volunteers collected 55 pounds of trash in just two hours

By Jim McGaw
Posted 9/24/19

PORTSMOUTH — Kailey Oliveira learned firsthand that the town beach isn’t nearly as clean as it looks.

As part of her senior project at Portsmouth High School, Kailey organized a …

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Portsmouth High senior organized cleanup of Sandy Point Beach

Volunteers collected 55 pounds of trash in just two hours

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Kailey Oliveira learned firsthand that the town beach isn’t nearly as clean as it looks.

As part of her senior project at Portsmouth High School, Kailey organized a volunteer cleanup of Sandy Point Beach on Aug. 3. She presented the findings of her project, “Portsmouth: The Trash-Free Town,” to the Town Council Monday night.

“Going into the cleanup, I was expecting 15 to 20 pounds of trash since Sandy Point is considered one of the cleanest beaches in Portsmouth,” she told council members.

However, after 15 volunteers spent two hours scouring the beach, a whopping 55 pounds of trash were collected — ranging from beach toys to scrap pieces of metal and asbestos tiles.

“We actually found some roofing tiles, which is not something you’d expect to find at a beach,” Kailey said.

She said she chose ocean conservation as her senior project because caring for the planet has always been important to her.

“I hope one day to help build a community that is involved in protecting our ecosystem that we rely so heavily on,” Kailey said. “With new data and discoveries arising, I find it my duty to help reverse damage that us humans have done. Being a local of Rhode Island, I love going to the beach, and I want to protect our beaches and beautiful coasts.”

Kailey’s AP English teacher, Kaylin Johnson, recommended she partner with the local environmental group, Clean Ocean Access (COA). Eva Touhey, a former student of Ms. Johnson’s, is now program manager of COA.

“I am constantly inspired by Clean Clean Access and the opportunities that they provide for the people of Rhode Island to give back to our community,” said Kailey, adding that she “dove into everything that COA is about” because the senior project requires a learning stretch for all students.

Council member Leonard Katzman congratulated Kailey on her project, particularly her ability to get the community involved.

 “You got 15 people to show up on a beautiful day to pick up trash,” he said.

Juul pods

Council member Keith Hamilton said he’s always struck by the number of cigarette butts that are collected during beach cleanups. (Kailey’s cleanup collected 41 cigarettes and cigarette filters, while a total of 583 were scooped up at previous Sandy Point cleanups from 2013 to 2018, according to her presentation.)

Mr. Hamilton, however, said that cigarettes are seemingly being replaced by a more recent scourge.

“As I walk around town, I see less and less cigarette butts, and more and more Juul pods,” he said, referring to discarded e-liquid cartridges used for vaping and which are popular with teenagers. 

Juul pods come in a variety of flavors and each one contains about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The Portsmouth Prevention Coalition has been campaigning about the dangers of e-cigarettes, saying they’re often misunderstood by their users.

Mr. Hamilton suggested that COA consider Juul pods a separate category when collecting and recording amounts of discarded trash.

“I do think they’re a big issue,” Kailey responded. “Even walking around the school campus, I see them everywhere. Around Portsmouth High School, there should be more trash cans, which is something I should bring up to administration.”

Here's what they picked up

The Aug. 3 cleanup of Sandy Point Beach that PHS senior Kailey Oliveira organized collected 55 points of trash over a two-hour period. Here’s a breakdown of what the 15 volunteers collected:

• Food wrappers: 83

• Caps and lids: 43

• Cigarettes and cigarette filters: 41

• Beverage cans: 29

• Plastic miscellaneous: 26

• Plastic bags: 25

• Plastic beverage bottles: 25

• Paper miscellaneous: 25

• Fishing line: 23

• Glass beverage bottles: 19 

• Clothes and shoes: 19

• Rope: 16

• Straws and stirrers: 12

• Cups, utensils, and plates: 10 

• Building materials: 9

Kailey compared those numbers to the most commonly found items at Sandy Point during cleanups from 2013 to 2018: 

• Food wrappers: 665

• Cigarettes and cigarette filters: 583

• Beverage cans: 500

• Caps and lids: 461

• Plastic bags: 406

• Glass beverage bottles: 374

• Building materials: 344

• Plastic beverage bottles: 292 

• Paper miscellaneous: 267

• Foam miscellaneous: 204

• Cups, utensils, and plates: 181 

• Straws and stirrers: 181

• Plastic miscellaneous: 156 

• Clothes and shoes: 143 

• Other items: 313

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