Keep it Clean: Taking Care of Our Coast

Delaware is known for having some of the highest-quality beaches in the nation. Locals take pride in contributing to this image by volunteering with programs to remove litter from these areas. Additionally, Delaware State Parks have a carry-in, carry-out policy, which reduces waste found in natural spaces as well as the costs associated with cleanup. 
International Coastal Cleanup Day
Along with the local cleanup efforts that take place year-round, International Coastal Cleanup Day occurs each September. This is an opportunity for communities worldwide to rid their coastlines of trash that accumulates throughout the year. DNREC organizes the Coastal Cleanup event in Delaware, which includes more than 40 sites covering over 70 miles of coast. The Ocean Conservancy collects the data and makes it available so information about cleanups all over the world can be compared to one another and shared with the public. Information on the waste collected during Delaware's Coastal Cleanup from 2008 to present are available in the Delaware Open Data Portal.
The data below show the top five items collected during cleanups in 2008 and 2018.
Cigarettes are historically the most commonly collected item during beach cleanups, followed by various plastic items. In an effort to reduce this litter, as well as exposure to second-hand smoke from tobacco use, Delaware State Parks asks all park visitors to refrain from using tobacco in designated tobacco-free zones. In 2018, more plastic pieces were found than cigarette butts, indicating a possible change in smoking habits and also the persistence of plastic in everyday life.
Top 5 Debris Items: 10-Year Comparison
Beginning in 2011, recyclables were sorted from trash items during the Coastal Cleanup. Recycling conserves resources and energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and diverts waste from expensive and unsightly landfills. 
Since 2011, if all the plastic bottles found during Delaware's Coastal Cleanup had been recycled, the energy saved would be equivalent to the energy needed to drive a car over 14,000 miles.
Many common plastics are not disposed of properly and make their way into the environment. Grocery bags and balloons are easily caught in the wind and can blow across long distances. Straws are small and light-weight, allowing them to easily escape from overflowing or unsecured bins. None of these items are accepted through single-stream recycling programs. However, grocery bags can often be returned to the store from which they originated, which is an important step in preventing them from causing damage to ecosystems.
Visit the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Information and Data for Education and Solutions (TIDES) website to view other reports and interesting facts about cleanup efforts around the world. It is easy to get involved in maintaining our beach habitats by joining a cleanup effort or picking up litter on your own. Every bit helps.
DNREC encourages groups and organizations to practice environmental stewardship by joining its Adopt-A-Beach program. The program cleans up trash throughout the year and increases citizen education and engagement to make our beaches cleaner and safer for people and wildlife alike.
This program offers 43 half-mile segments of Atlantic coast beach for adoption. One of the cleanups often coincides with International Coastal Cleanup Day. DNREC provides the necessary supplies, such as trash bags, gloves, and report forms and volunteers get the satisfaction of helping to keep the beaches clean.

Page reviewed 5/14/19