BCC Students Sweep The Beaches; What They Find Is No Genie In A Bottle


Isabel Shaw, Staff Writer

What do a car transmission, toilet seat, and a 20-pound dumbbell have in common? They are all unusual items found during Beach Sweeps.  

Clean Ocean Action (COA), a nonprofit group working to protect waterways, sponsored the New Jersey Coastal Beach Sweeps event Oct. 22, and several Brookdale students and clubs came out to sweep pollution from the beaches. 

The Beach Sweeps program is one of the longest running coastal cleanup programs in the world. As of 2013, over 101,700 volunteers have put feet on the beach, collecting and tabulating over 5.2 million pieces of trash from New Jersey’s beaches. 

 COA is a coalition of 125 active boating, business, community, conservation, diving, environmental, fishing, religious, service, student, surfing and women’s groups. 

COA researches pollution issues affecting the marine environment, then formulates policy and campaigns to eliminate each pollution source. The staff then coordinates and organizes the Ocean Wavemakers (Participating Organizations, Concerned Businesses,  Educators, and Concerned Citizens) to use their individual experience and expertise to help. 

This year, COA sponsored over 70 beach sweep locations along the New Jersey coast. Brookdale’s Environmental Club alerted students about the sweep. My group, The Innovation Network (TIN), connected with the Adventure Bound Club, and decided to participate in the event. The groups chose Pompano Beach in Atlantic Highlands. The sweep ran from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

I arrived around 10 a.m. on a beautiful but chilly day. Most of the students were already combing the beach and the surrounding area and after signing in, I grabbed a bucket and was given a trash check-off list. I headed to the beautiful bay beach side of Sandy Hook National Recreation Area.   

The first students I encountered were Nidia Jimenez-Burrius, a psychology major and a member of both WILL and PTK. She was with Janet Sanchez-Oseguera, a business major and PTK member. I commented that the beach was cleaner than I expected. The students smiled and took the cover off their bucket – it was almost full of trash. 

I had been walking for a while and didn’t see anything. How did they find so much? I grabbed a stick and began to poke through the clumps of seaweed and shells that covered the beach about 100 feet up from the shoreline. It was there that I uncovered dozens of plastic bottle caps, endless pieces of different sized plastic chunks, several ropes, tampon holders, candy wrappers and more. The more I looked, the more I found. 

A used syringe, old bits of fabric, a faded flag (and pole!), bits of children’s toys, and cigarette filters. Lots of cigarettes. My bucket quickly filled up. How did I miss this before? 

The truth is, we almost become used to seeing trash on a beach. I was walking and looking superficially before, but when I dug a little deeper, looked a little closer, it was there.  I spent another hour retracing my steps with a sharper focus and it was everywhere –so many plastic straws and stirrers, hunks of Styrofoam, mingled with shells and seaweed, poisoning the coastal zone and its estuaries and wetlands.  

I was proud of Brookdale’s participation. I was grateful for COA’s activism for cleaner waterways and hope to become a member. They hold press events, beach sweeps, rallies, letter-writing campaigns, and make phone calls to officials, testify at public hearings, and distribute literature. are some of the ways members can become involved. 

For more information on COA: 

Clean Ocean Action: Be the Solution to Ocean Pollution 

COA30thTrueBlueBook_Final.pdf (cleanoceanaction.org)