From car batteries to roofing tiles, baseballs, nail polish, and a popcorn popper. These are just a few of the items collected by more than 8,000 volunteers during the biannual Beach Sweep events along the Jersey Shore in 2022. Despite the list of oddities, the vast majority of the 376,969 items littering the beaches from Perth Amboy to Cape May were plastics, according to the 2022 Beach Sweeps report released by Clean Ocean Action this week.

While plastics comprised 82% of the litter collected, the report says the number of plastic straws and bags actually decreased this year. Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf said the drop resulted from a new law that bans plastic bags as well as foam takeout containers. “It’s really, really encouraging to see those numbers trending down for the bags, straws, and foam containers,” said Zipf.

The number of plastic bags collected dropped by 37% compared to 2021, while plastic straws decreased 39% and foam takeout containers by 38%. The organization has been collecting data since 1985, and Zipf says the information was pivotal in creating the new law. The Single Use Waste Reduction Act (SUWRA), which banned plastic bags and foam food containers, went into full effect in May 2022. A law that requires plastic straws to be given to customers only upon request went into effect at the end of 2021.

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Author: Jetta Holiday, WHYY PBS
Image: AP Photo, Eric Carvin, WHYY PBS