Standing along Suffolk’s iconic oceanfront, officials and environmentally minded community members launched a new initiative intended to combat litter along portions of our coastline. Unveiled at Smith Point County Park was the first clean-up station to be installed through a pilot program championed by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn earlier this year that places beach clean-up baskets at nine county parks across Suffolk.
The program is intended to give parks patrons an opportunity to combat beach pollution by providing carriable baskets for litter collection. Volunteers who participate are asked to take a basket, collect debris and then return the baskets and litter to the cleanup station where trash receptacles are located for proper disposal.
Suffolk County entered into an agreement with Remsenburg, New York-based nonprofit RELIC Sustainability for placement of clean-up stations at Smith Point County Park in Shirley, Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton, Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays, Orient Point County Park in Orient, Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton, Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place, Indian Island County Park in Riverhead, Shinnecock East County Park in Southampton and Montauk County Park in Montauk. The partnership with RELIC comes at no cost to the County as the organization sells sponsorship for each station. This initial site at Smith Point is sponsored by Sunrise Wind - Powered by Orsted and Eversource.
“As Long Islanders, our beaches and our coastline are central to our identity and our prosperity. They not only create thousands of unforgettable moments for our residents and visitors each year, but they also generate millions of dollars for our local economy through tourism and marine related jobs,” said Legislator Hahn, sponsor of legislation authoring the County’s agreement with RELIC Sustainability. “Suffolk County’s shoreline is its welcome mat and our partnership with RELIC will make these beaches even more alluring.”
Aiden Kravitz, co-founder of RELIC Sustainability said, “With more and more plastic trash washing up on our shorelines, we couldn't be more excited to be taking action against coastal pollution with Suffolk County and Sunrise Wind. We are determined to continue building and implementing clean up stations that integrate stakeholders from the community, government, and business as part of a collective environmental solution. By working together, we can keep our coastlines clean and protected as we enter a time period hallmarked by pollution and debris."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “billions of pounds of trash and other pollutants enter the ocean each year” with researchers who study pollution on Australian atoll islands estimating “that about 524,000 pounds, or 238 metric tons, of plastic washed up on beaches that are exposed to ocean currents, wind and waves." It is believed 80 percent of all aquatic waste is comprised of single use plastics.
With more than 980 miles of coastline, Suffolk County is especially impacted by beach litter that is either left behind by visitors or washed ashore. To combat this issue locally, Suffolk has prohibited the use of single use plastic straws and stirrers, microbeads in personal care items and polystyrene packaging through legislation sponsored by Legislator Hahn. Data from the Long Island Sound Study show that these, and similar, efforts may be working as it was estimated the body had 67 pounds of litter debris per mile in 2020, down significantly from the 2004 high of 1137 pounds of trash per mile.
“Suffolk County beaches are some of the most beautiful in the Country and we must do all that we can to keep them clean, safe and litter-free,” said Legislator Tom Donnelly. “I thank Legislator Kara Hahn and the generosity of RELIC Sustainability for this unique and important initiative that will enable all of us to do our part in working towards this critically-important commitment.”
Legislator Sarah Anker agreed, "We have been blessed with beautiful parks and beaches here in Suffolk County. Providing sustainable cleanup stations like this one, empowers the community and gives them the opportunity to be a part of keeping them clean for everyone to enjoy.”
“I would like to congratulate Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn and RELIC Sustainability on their partnership which prioritizes keeping our Suffolk County beaches clean and safe for all residents to enjoy,” added Suffolk County Majority Leader Susan A. Berland.