At first glance, the beaches looked pretty clean when volunteers arrived in East Haven on September 10 and in Branford this past Saturday.
But after 90 minutes of trash collection, both groups had amassed hundreds of cigarette butts, candy wrappers, bottle caps and mini liquor bottles in addition to an assortment of construction debris.
The Department of Environmental Health Sciences and Sustainability Committee at the Yale School of Public Health teamed up with the East Shore Health District and other community groups the last two Saturdays to pick up trash at the East Haven and Branford town beaches to safeguard the coastal sites from pollution.
“The health of the Sound is important to the health of wildlife and the people who live here,” said Professor Vasilis Vasiliou, chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “Ocean trash is a serious problem and it affects us all.”
Small plastic trash, such as was prevalent in East Haven and Branford, is especially detrimental to seabirds and turtles, seals and other animals, he said.
In all, over a 100 volunteers from Yale, the East Shore District Health Department, Save the Sound and the Ocean Conservancy participated in the annual Ocean Conservancy-sponsored International Coastal Clean Up.
Teams inventoried trash as they collected it. That data will be compiled by the Ocean Conservancy to determine the global scale of coastal pollution. In 2015, volunteers collected more than 18 million pounds of trash worldwide, including 97 televisions, 28 refrigerators and 39 toilets. Among the most commonly collected items are cigarette butts, food wrappers and plastic bottles, caps and straws. Data from the cleanups is used to develop plans to divert solid waste before it enters the marine environment.