Thanks to the great volunteers who came out this week to clean the harbors and beaches in Oyster Bay and Bayville.  Many commented that there did not seem to be a lot to clean up.  There was a total of 1.76 tons collected, including two floating docks and a small boat cart.  Those big items contributed a large portion of the tonnage collected, the rest was small items, painstakingly collected.  Participants were asked to fill out a sheet regarding the items collected.  This data is collated by the Ocean Conservancy, and a report will be published summarizing the results of cleanups conducted worldwide in the month of September.  What has been found year after year is that much of the litter collected is entirely preventable.  The number one item is cigarette butts.

Two students from Oyster Bay High School, Alex Ravins and Riane Woodman, decided to conduct an experiment and focus on collecting cigarette butts only. Their goal was 100, which was easily met. Then they collected 200, and they kept going, until they passed 600!  This was ONLY in the area between the rock jetty by the boat launch and the flagpole in Theodore Roosevelt Park.  600!  I am very grateful for their diligence.  If the butts had not been collected, the heavy storms of Wednesday the 18th would have washed all these down into the harbor.  Look at it this way – would you want to take a bath in a bathtub full of cigarette butts?  Why in the world would you want to swim with them, or worse yet, have your children swim with them?  The plastic filters contribute to the problem of plastic contamination in the world’s oceans.

A large group of Surfriders from Massapequa High School came north to help in the clean up.  They were very interested in discussing the impact of all the plastics circulating in the oceans.  There is an area in the Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is composed almost entirely of small plastic particles.  Birds and mammals have been found starved to death with their stomachs full of plastic.  They are feeding, but deriving no nourishment from it. Plastic bags are especially deadly.  Whats worse is that consumers are told they are biodegradable.  What degrades is the cornstarch polymer holding the small microscopic pieces of plastic together.  Those pieces of plastic get washed into the world’s oceans, and are swallowed by plankton feeders.

Mme. Tarawaji, a dedicated teacher from East Woods school, brought her students to the shoreline.  They have been at every cleanup since I started with Friends of the Bay seven years ago, and I am sure she was active in the cleanups before then.  Students from Syosset High School were also diligent in collecting garbage, and gave a hand in packing up at the end of the day.  Dawn Riley led a team from Oak Cliff Yacht Club – even her Mom who was visiting for the weekend lent a hand!

Whole Foods not only donated water and snacks to the volunteers doing the cleanup, they also pitched in and did their part.  It was a great cooperative effort between Friends of the Bay, the Town of Oyster Bay, the Oyster Bay Sail and Power Squadron, and the North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association.