It’s beach clean up season!
To clear out winter debris and prepare for summer weather, groups like the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Drink Local. Drink Tap, Adopt Euclid Beach and the Surfrider Foundation are hosting big events to pick up trash at Northeast Ohio beaches.
Drink Local hosts events all summer at Edgewater Park, both the main beach and smaller Perkins Beach. And three evening clean-ups include an after party hosted by Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Even as people grow more aware of plastic pollution, trash is still piling up on beaches — much of it microplastics that fish and birds can ingest.
“I feel like it’s a really, really big problem we’re facing so we’re not going to see overnight response,” said Drink Local Executive Director Erin Huber Rosen. “I don’t think we’re going to make a huge difference in our Great Lakes until we start making bolder decisions.”
That includes the plastic bag ban proposed in Cuyahoga County.
Cuyahoga residents use 319 million plastic bags annually, said legislation author Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Sunny Simon. That contributes to the 5.5 million pounds of plastic every year that makes its way into Lake Erie, the second-most polluted of the Great Lakes.
Together, the United States and Canada discard 22 million pounds of plastic into Great Lakes waters, according to a Rochester Institute of Technology study. Much of it — including fast-food straws, cigar tips and plastic bottle caps — comes flushed from streets, through storm drains and into the lake. Then it washes up on shore, making up about 80 percent of the litter on beaches.
Lake Erie has 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer. Particles from Detroit and Cleveland end up along the southern coast of the eastern basin of Lake Erie.
“When people come to beach clean ups, that is ideal time to talk to them about their daily habits,” Rosen said. “Plastic cutlery, bottles, straws, all the stuff we’re finding. They start to think, ‘Oh man, I use this stuff.’”
Rosen urges people to drink out of reusable containers andbuy products in biodegradable containers.
“Plastic is permanent,” she said. “We need to stop for 10 seconds and think that that plastic is going to last thousands and thousands of years. Is that something we really want to be a part of?”
About 87 percent of the trash picked up around the Great Lakes by the Alliance for the Great Lakes is plastic, said Cleveland office outreach coordinator Destinee Henton. In Cleveland, the number increases to 96 percent.
A lot of the plastic is tiny, the colorful slivers that doesn’t get picked up by tractors and sifters, like the John Deere “beach machine” that cleans the main beach at Edgewater from early May through Septembe.
Alliance crews in Cleveland picked up nearly 4,000 pounds of trash last year. That includes a door and a clock/wine holder.
“With the anniversary of our river, it brings up that history,” Henton said. “It’s evidence of how Cleveland is still rolling, always making a way to solve some of these issues.”
For Drink Local, 50 to 250 people show up at beach clean-ups. Since 2010, they’ve cleaned up more than 6,000 pounds of trash at Edgewater.
Here’s where you can help out with Drink Local. Drink Tap.:
Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Main Edgewater Beach
Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Perkins Beach
Tuesday, June 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Main Edgewater Beach
Sunday, June 23, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Perkins Beach
Saturday, July 13, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Perkins Beach
Tuesday, July 30, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Main Edgewater Beach
Saturday, August 17, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Perkins Beach
Wednesday, August 21, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Main Edgewater Beach
Saturday, August 31, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Perkins Beach
Saturday, September 28, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Perkins Beach
Here’s where you can join the Alliance for the Great Lakes:
Sunday, April 14, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sims Park, Euclid
Wednesday, April 17: 5:30-7 p.m. Edgewater Beach
Wednesday, April 17, 5-7 p.m. Headlands Beach, Mentor
Thursday, April 18: 10-11 a.m. Edgewater Beach
Saturday, April 27, 9:30-11 a.m. Timberlake Beach