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Photo of volunteers picking up and recording beach trash
Volunteers pick up and record beach trash

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Clean Ocean Action's Beach Sweep
A Local Legacy

Have you ever been part of a volunteer clean-up crew, picking up litter or trash? If so, you know just how much garbage can collect on streets or in parks. In New Jersey there was another place that had a lot of litter -- the beaches.

By the 1980s, thanks to ocean dumpsites and runoff water, pollution was ruining New Jersey's beaches. Runoff water, which is often polluted, flows into streams and ends up in the ocean.

To help clean up New Jersey's polluted beaches, a group called Clean Ocean Action holds Beach Sweeps. One of the longest running cleanups in the world, the Beach Sweeps first started in 1985 at Sandy Hook with 75 volunteers. Today, volunteers of all ages "sweep" the beaches by picking up garbage and other debris and writing down what they collect. The list of litter provides information that is used to educate the public about the pollution problem.

Volunteers usually pick up plastic, glass, metal, wood, and styrofoam. They have also collected some unusual items from the beaches, such as a shopping cart, a microwave oven, a toilet, mattresses, Christmas decorations, and a wig! Keeping a list of items helps people realize that garbage can come back to us if we don't dispose of it properly.

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