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Planet CLE: Keeping our beaches clean during the holiday and year-round

With the Fourth of July weekend just days away, the Cleveland Metroparks and other conservation organizations remind you to be mindful of beach waste.

CLEVELAND — The sun is shining, the temperatures are warm: Fourth of July weekend is almost here!

It's the perfect time to hit the beach, but some folks hit the beach a little too hard—with pollution and waste. So, how can we keep our waterways beautiful and debris-free, not just during the holiday, but all summer long?

"History shows that when people come out and enjoy the park, they leave a lot of stuff behind," Matt Kreps, senior park Manager for Lakefront Reservation, tells 3News. "It always happens."

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Since the Metroparks took over Cleveland beaches in 2013, with Lakefront alone managing Edgewater Park, Wendy Park, East 55th Street Marina, East 72nd fishing area, and North Gordon Park Boat Ramp. Cleanliness has gotten much better since then, but some still trash the beaches—mostly with plastic bottles which make up nearly 87% of beach garbage. Food and smoking-related trash makes up much of the rest.

"Things like plastic lids, condiment cups, chip wrappers, and then a category that we call 'tiny trash'—which are small pieces of plastic broken down from larger items like bottles and bins and other plastic items," Juliann Krupa of Alliance of the Great Lakes said.

At Edgewater, a beach machine rakes the sand every single warm weather day alongside a dozen trash-trolling volunteers hand-picking up waste daily. Nearly two million pounds of waste is picked up annually from just Lakefront Reservation waterways alone, and with Fourth of July weekend on the horizon, beachside barbecues, snack wrappers and water bottles are expected to litter the landscape.

"Some of the beaches sometimes are really in bad shape here in Northeast Ohio," Eddie Plotts of local sea-conservation group Sea Shepherd Cleveland lamented. "We just need people to do their part so we can continue to enjoy these areas."

"Our beach machine is a sand-sifter, and it catches a lot of our finer, small debris," Kreps added. "We get lots of folks our here, lots of cookouts, lots of food, lots of fun—also, we have lots of trash. The beach sifter really helps with that."

Beach cleaners—man and machine—are staying on guard for your garbage. They just ask that you, too, do your part while you party.

"If you pack it in, please pack it out," Kreps advised, "especially during the holiday."

"There are beaches all over the world that are in desperate need of clean-up," Plotts said. "We're lucky we're not as bad, but we still encourage you to think globally and act locally."

The Metroparks separates the beach trash it collects. Plastic gets recycled, and the larger, woody items get turned into mulch and used for city landscaping.

The Metroparks stresses that the more you do to keep our beaches clean, the more improvements they can focus on making around the city.

"If we can reduce waste on our beaches, we can focus resources on other parts of of our city," Kreps declared.

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