Another summer has come and gone, filled with days of laughter, sunshine and relaxation at the beach.
While the parties have gone, the reminders of them -- caps from water bottles and soda, straws from drinks, and hundreds of other bits of debris -- remain behind.
This Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will be hitting the state's beaches from Sandy Hook to Long Beach Island to Cape May to pick up plastics, Styrofoam, cans and much more, left behind by humans and the tides, as part of Clean Ocean Action's fall Beach Sweeps event.
Since the first sweeps in 1985, more than 90,000 volunteers have participated in the now twice-yearly event, picking up more than 4.5 million bits of trash and debris.
While the nature of that debris has changed as the times have changed -- cigarette butts have dropped out of the top three items, but plastic bottle tops, which were far more rare in the 1980s, have surged into their place -- the need for awareness has not, Clean Ocean Action says.
"Fish, whales, birds, and other animals often mistake litter for food," the group says on its information page about the beach sweeps. "As a result, animals get entangled in, or ingest, items such as plastic bags, cigarette filters, and fishing line, with deadly results."
Groups of 10 or more are urged to register in advance before participating in the sweeps, but all volunteers are welcome even on the day of the sweeps, Clean Ocean Action says.
The sweeps begin with check-in at 9 a.m. and run until approximately 12:30 p.m., rain or shine. Volunteers will be provided trash bags and data cards to record the litter they pick up, which goes into the group's database and its yearly report.
Volunteers are reminded to dress for the weather and bring gloves to protect themselves from sharp objects during the cleanup.
Nearly 60 sites, statewide, are scheduled for clean-ups, including:
Bay Head: Central Market at Rt 35 & Mount St
Beachwood: Public Beach, Compass Ave
Brick: Brick Beach III on Rt 35 North, next to Ocean Club and across from Bayside Park
Island Beach State Park, Bathing Pavilion #1
Lakewood: Lake Carasaljo, meet across from St. Mary's Church on Rt 9
Lavallette: Philadelphia Ave beach
Long Beach Island: Alliance For a Living Ocean Office; 1101 Central Avenue, Suite A, Ship Bottom, NJ
Mantoloking: Lyman Ave Beach
Normandy Beach: Meet at Labrador Lounge at Peterson St & Rt 35 North
Ocean Gate: Wildwood Ave Pier
Point Pleasant Borough: Maxson Avenue and River Avenue beaches on the Manasquan River
Point Pleasant Beach: Jenkinson's Aquarium on the Boardwalk and the Maryland Avenue beach on the south end next to Bay Head
Seaside Heights: Grant Avenue on the Boardwalk
Seaside Park: 1. Stockton Ave on the boardwalk; 2. Second Avenue; 3. Midway Beach at 6th Lane