Adopt-a-Beach: The meaning of the annual clean-ups via a visit to South Shore Beach, plus Stray CastDale Bowmanon September 22, 2021 at 2:04 pm

The South Shore Beach looked well-groomed Saturday as heavy waves dunked the shore.

”A woman comes with her dog, gets the big stuff and throws that out,” said Catherine Mardikes, the executive vice president for the League of Women Voters’ South Side unit. ”But there is an amazing amount of trash in the sand, such as straws and glass.”

Mardikes and vice president Jane Ruby led the South Shore Adopt-a-Beach event.

Plastics are the crux of why the 30th year of the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-Beach events matter.

Tracy Stanciel found plenty of plastic as she combed the beach methodically. Her footprints made long lines in the sand, two feet apart, back and forth.

”Our volunteers consistently find 85% of the litter is plastic; that is every year,” said Molly Flanagan, the chief operating officer of the alliance. ”It has been pretty consistent. I’m sure you heard about microplastics. Keeping [plastics] out of the lakes keeps them from breaking down into those harmful microplastics.”

About 15,000 volunteers around the Great Lakes collect thousands of pounds of trash at the events. Volunteers wear work or surgical gloves to collect litter in buckets or garbage bags. Beside detritus common to humans, I saw corroded metal posts (from old-time industrial dumping), a golf ball and a shotgun wad.

”I think the volunteers participating see that plastic pollution is significant, and they are doing their part,” Flanagan said. ”But I think what we need is more government involvement in keeping plastics out of the Great Lakes. . . . We need a more holistic solution to plastic pollution.”

Melanie Norstrom, who comes with son Eric, 10, said: ”It is nice to have a reason to get out early on a weekend and to show him that he can volunteer and make a difference. You may have your values, but if you do not act on them [it doesn’t mean anything].”

Anna Hendricks and John Jay began their cleanup at the Shore Shore Natural Area Saturday during Adopt-a-Beach.Dale Bowman

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