IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP — Seventeen volunteers collected over 36 pounds of garbage along the shoreline at Little Girl’s Point on Saturday morning, part of the Adopt a Beach efforts sustained on shorelines of the Great Lakes by the Alliance of the Great Lakes.
Volunteers locally ranged in age from 4 to 70, said organizer Lisa Kinney. Last year the event drew only four volunteers, but this year she had more time to plan, Kinney said.
Garbage found ranged from forgotten clothing and shoes to cans to cigarette butts and styrofoam, said Kinney.
Kinney had to don waders and venture into a Lake Superior with high waves on Saturday morning to do the final step of the clean-up effort; collecting a water sample for bacteria analysis. A tourist family from Illinois asked her to collect a bottle of Lake Superior water for them, as long as she was already geared up for it, and she obliged.
The Great Lakes Alliance has been conducting beach clean-ups in Michigan and Illinois since 1991, with the Adopt a Beach program officially starting in 2003, according to their website. The program has 10,000 volunteers.
Last year the program collected 17,000 pounds of garbage from 230 locations along the Great Lakes.
The scientific data on litter and water samples supports regional research on microplastics, or the tiny plastic particles that are found in the Great Lakes, according to a news release.
Jamie Cross, manager of the Alliance’s Adopt-a-Beach program, said that scientists at universities in New York, Illinois, and Canada are reviewing the data to learn more about the plastics and other debris washed up on Great Lakes shorelines.
“The issue has been here for a long time, but the research is new,” said Cross. “Scientists are taking a fresh look at what’s in our water.”
For more information, visit greatlakes.org.