Blake Hayes and Eva Matteson, of the Coast Morning Show on 93.1, are pictured at Old Orchard Beach Saturday for Maine Coastal Program’s annual Coastweek coastal cleanup.

Blake Hayes and Eva Matteson, of the Coast Morning Show on 93.1, are pictured at Old Orchard Beach Saturday for Maine Coastal Program’s annual Coastweek coastal cleanup.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — About 50 volunteers swept the sands of Old Orchard Beach clean Saturday, as part of Coastweek – a weeklong effort organized by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Maine Coastal Program to remove trash from the state’s coastal lands and waters.

Coastweek is held each year as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, Theresa Torrent, a senior planner of the Maine Coastal Program, said just minutes after the cleanup ended at OOB Saturday. OOB was one of about 70 coastal Maine sites that were cleaned during the week from Sept. 19-26, she said.

Old Orchard Beach is pictured Saturday. About 50 volunteers worked to remove trash from the beach Saturday for Maine Coastal Program’s annual Coastweek coastal cleanup.

Old Orchard Beach is pictured Saturday. About 50 volunteers worked to remove trash from the beach Saturday for Maine Coastal Program’s annual Coastweek coastal cleanup.

“Here at Old Orchard Beach we find that most of the trash is cigarette butts, single-use plastics, so like plastic cups, plastic lids, a lot of straws,” said Torrent. “A lot of bits of Styrofoam were found today, and then some odd items, like pieces of chairs, that kind of thing.”

Torrent, who led the group of volunteers at OOB, said they were able to remove many large as well as small plastic trash items from the beach, adding that too often beach cleanups focus on larger trash items, when it is the smaller ones that arguably have the bigger impact on the health of marine ecosystems.

“They’re actually the pieces that can be some of the most harmful because they just break into smaller and smaller plastic pieces and our ocean is becoming quite full of plastic,” she said. “So we’re concerned both by the larger trash and the smaller trash.”

When trash – especially plastics, which don’t break down or go away – does find its way into the waters, it often leads to the death of marine creatures that mistake it for food, explained Torrent.

“Turtles or animals that tend to be attracted to, for example, small squid or jellyfish, would maybe see a piece of floating plastic and identify that as being food,” she said. “We’re also finding a lot of seabirds that spend a lot time foraging for food for their chicks are actually bringing back bits of plastic and feeding those to the chicks, and so they’re dying because they’re not getting any nutrition. … As it breaks into smaller pieces, it can impact anywhere in the food chain.”

According to a Sept. 17 press release from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, data from cleanups around the world is compiled and added to an annual index of global marine debris; this data has in the past influenced policy makers and contributed to scientific research. Last year, volunteers collected 10,484 pounds of trash in Maine alone.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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