Members of the Northwest Indiana Parrothead Club scour Kemil Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for litter during the 2011 Adopt-A-Beach event. | Photo provided
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:20AM
Saturday morning will be a perfect time to go to the beach, regardless of the weather. If you do, you can join in the world’s largest shoreline cleanup.
Volunteers around the world will be participating in the International Coastal Cleanup. Last year alone more than a half million volunteers in more than 100 countries removed more than 9 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways. As they cleaned they also collected data on what they found. Over the years that data has led to changes that have further helped the environment.
Here in Indiana, 18 Lake Michigan beach event sites from Hammond to Shoreland Hills near the Michigan state line, plus two inland waters, are targeted for cleanup and data-gathering. Most of these cleanups will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday through the Adopt-a-Beach program coordinated by the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
According to Katie Larson, the coordinator for Indiana and Illinois, at the September 2011 Adopt-a-Beach events in Indiana, about 600 volunteers collected more than 2,000 pounds of litter.
That statistic is even more impressive when looking at a breakdown of the trash by types, and seeing that about 75 percent of it was food wrappers and containers, cigarette butts, cigar tips and lighters, and balloons and balloon string. That’s a lot of little stuff.
But why sweat the small stuff like that? Because beach litter is more than unsightly, it’s dangerous. For example, cigarette butts contain lead, arsenic and other chemicals that can leach into waterways, affecting water quality and taking potentially hundreds of years to completely degrade, according to the Great Lakes Alliance. They also pose a choking hazard to young children, fish and wildlife.
Changes resulting from the cleanup and data gathering have included increased recycling and garbage cans at beaches, placement of smoking waste receptacles, and increased public education about reducing impacts to our fresh water resources.
As an added benefit, volunteers over age 21 who help in the clean-up at Michigan City’s Washington Park beach will be invited to a Barefoot Winery wine tasting afterward.
Adopt-a-Beach is open to individuals, families and groups, and it’s easy to get involved. First, register by going to www.greatlakes.org and clicking on learn more about September Adopt-a-Beach. The form will ask for some basic information to create an account. Next, participants select the specific beach location where they would like to volunteer. Registration allows the organizers to provide coordinators at each site with enough gloves, trash and recycle bags, and data-collecting material for the volunteers. Then, be sure to dress for the weather, and bring drinking water to the event.