New Haven, CT—Save the Sound, the statewide coordinator for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) since 2002, will hold the 2020 Connecticut Cleanup effort in September as planned. Official sponsor Subaru of New England has renewed its commitment to the effort, and will once again support cleanups through its Connecticut dealerships. At the time of this writing, 38 cleanups have been confirmed at beaches, riverbanks, and parks throughout the state.
This year, in-person cleanups will feature new protocols for the use of personal protective equipment and social distancing. All participants will be required to bring and wear face masks in order to take part, and are encouraged to form groups consisting of those they are quarantining with. The size of cleanups will be limited according to the presiding state health guidelines on social gatherings. If an in-person cleanup has more interest than the cap allows, Save the Sound will work with the Cleanup Captain at that location to put shifts in place so that everyone can participate safely. Save the Sound is also planning “virtual cleanups” for those who don’t feel comfortable with a group in-person event, and as a backup should COVID-19 conditions in the state change before September.
“We’re excited to be able to offer in-person cleanups this year, but we do so with a clear understanding that this will only work if everyone takes the protocols seriously,” said Annalisa Paltauf, volunteer coordinator at Save the Sound. “We asked our Cleanup Captains what they felt comfortable with, and then put guidelines in place to make sure in-person cleanups will be done safely and in accordance with physical distancing. We are incredibly grateful for their enthusiasm, and for the continued support of Subaru of New England as we’ve worked to put this together.”
The virtual cleanup format was piloted earlier this summer by Save the Sound, Patagonia, and Future Frogmen. Participants clean up at a publicly-accessible location of their choosing in the state (preferably in their home community), and submit their data digitally. The pilot effort resulted in more than 20 individuals cleaning up close to 400 pounds of trash from locations across the state. For each virtual cleanup, there will be a defined time window in which participants have the opportunity to take part and submit their data.
“The addition of virtual cleanups this year gives everyone the opportunity to participate in the largest annual cleanup effort in the state without gathering or even leaving their home town,” said Anthony Allen, ecological communications specialist at Save the Sound. “We found it works best when existing social groups take up the call and encourage their members to take part on their own time within the allotted window. It’s an adaptation that resulted from creativity in the face of crisis—but if we see a good response, maybe we’ll keep offering it as an option!”
(Save the Sound is using a similar virtual model this year for its fourth-annual Paddle for the Sound, which will take place August 14 – 31.)
As the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more businesses and individuals to seek out disposable PPE and single-use containers of all kinds, cleanups are perhaps more important than ever this year. Public parks and beaches have received an influx of visitors as Connecticut residents flock to the outdoors to find respite from confinement and recent heat waves.
“I’m seeing an incredible number of Mylar balloons on Long Island Sound these days, and the disposable PPE is finding its way into our waterways,” said Soundkeeper Bill Lucey. “I would encourage everyone to participate in cleanups this year in the way that feels safest and most comfortable for them. A lot of things have stopped as a result of this pandemic, but the fight against plastic pollution has only intensified—we need all hands on deck this cleanup season.”
All those interested in participating can visit www.savethesound.org/2020cleanup to find an in-person cleanup close to them or sign up for a virtual cleanup. Save the Sound is encouraging volunteers to register as early as possible this year in order to streamline communications and track interest in different cleanup locations as health guidelines shift.