TRURO — After a four-day Outer Cape cleanup held in late September, the Marine Debris Team of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) took a deep dive into the 16 contractor bags and 12 piles of trash too large to be bagged, all of which had been collected from 28 miles of the back shore.
Twenty volunteers spent four days at the Winkler Crane garage to sort and count 24,410 items weighing 1,950 pounds and including everything from derelict fishing gear to nacho chip bags.
The debris was dumped out onto a large table and sorted into categories by the “debris brigade,” a group of citizen scientists and artists convened by Laura Ludwig, the Marine Debris Program manager at CCS.
The inventory was conducted to assess the composition and sources of the debris — it is part of a long-term study by Ludwig’s team. Sorted items were counted, tallies entered on data sheets, and daily totals recorded. The count included items as small as produce stickers (a total of 39), Boston parking tickets (5), and syringes and their caps (265).
The top 10 items (by count — not by weight: the weightiest item was fishing gear, 1,104 pounds of it) found over four days from Coast Guard Beach in Eastham to Race Point in Provincetown were:
Nondescript plastic film: 3,899 pieces (31 pounds)
- Nondescript rigid plastic: 3,505 pieces (18 pounds)
- Nondescript foam: 3,404 pieces (23 pounds)
- Food/candy wrappers: 1,702 wrappers (7 pounds)
- Bottle caps: 1,517 caps (18 pounds)
- Balloons and their strings: 902 (25 pounds)
- Straws or stirrers: 735 (1 pound)
- Rope less than 1 meter long: 588 pieces (combined with fishing gear, 1,104 pounds)
- Lobster claw bands: 578 bands (1 pound)
- Yellow mystery tubing: 551 pieces (1 pound)
The purpose and origins of the yellow tubing is still a mystery, said Ludwig. This item has never appeared in Cape Cod cleanups until this year and has now been recorded in cleanups at many other Massachusetts sites as well, she added.
Anyone with information about the mystery yellow tubing is invited to contact Ludwig at [email protected]