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Dedicated Volunteers Needed for Great Lakes Beach Cleanups

Most of the trash along the Great Lakes is the result of human activity, and the job is often left to volunteers to pick it up. (NOAA)
Most of the trash along the Great Lakes is the result of human activity, and the job is often left to volunteers to pick it up. (NOAA)
April 24, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Conservation groups are hoping the momentum from Earth Day continues into the rest of the year.

Around the country this weekend, people recycled, planted trees, and picked up litter – and some spent the day cleaning up beaches.

Stephanie Smith, vice president of operations at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, says last year, more than 15,000 volunteers removed more than 40,000 pounds of trash from beaches in several states.

She hopes to see even bigger numbers this year, and adds those volunteers also collect data for scientists who use it to study ways to fight pollution.

Smith stresses trash is dangerous to wildlife.

"This can also cause problems for some of the small microorganisms that we have out in the water, or some of the fish,” she explains. “Birds and fish get tangled in some of the debris that gets left behind, as well. "

Smith says most litter found on Great Lakes beaches is put there by people, which means it can be reduced. Nearly 90 percent of the trash that volunteers pick up is plastic.

For those who missed the Earth Day events, the St. Louis River Alliance is sponsoring a beach cleanup in Duluth on Saturday.

Smith says the Adopt a Beach programs around the state are great ways for friends, family and co-workers to enjoy the weather and do something that helps the planet at the same time.

"Whether it's a small group or a large group at the beach, you're making a huge impact at that particular site,” she states. “And then when you add up all the sites together, where you've got people out at many different sites, [it] really can make a great impact."

Smith says common waste materials found along Minnesota's beaches include cigarette butts, water bottles, food containers and beach toys.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN