Sep. 17—If anyone who visited Headlands Beach State Park on the afternoon of Sept. 17 noticed a scarcity of litter in the sand, their observations were correct.
That's because a group of 31 registered volunteers spent two hours that same morning picking up litter from the beach during a special program.
The Meijer retail company sponsored an Adopt-a-Beach cleanup at Headlands Beach State Park, which is located in Mentor and Painesville Township. The event itself was organized and administered by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a nonprofit organization that's based in Chicago.
Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sept. 17, volunteers formed small groups, and walked along the beach at Headlands State Park, gathering litter from the sand and tossing the debris into buckets. Each group also had one member armed with a data sheet and writing utensil, and that person kept track of the number and types of littered objects which were collected.
The alliance enters this information into its historical database of beach litter in the Great Lakes region.
"So we can provide that data to researchers or policy makers or activists across the region, to help support whatever Great Lakes issue they're working on," said Juliann Krupa, volunteer engagement manager with the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Meijer, which operates supercenters, including one in Mentor, and grocery stores in a six-state area, has been partnering with the alliance since 2019 to conduct cleanups at beaches along the Great Lakes.
"We're proud to be hands-on in the cleaning of our beaches," said Meijer official Erik Petrovskis, in a prepared statement. Petrovskis serves as director of environmental compliance and sustainability at Meijer, which has its headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The cleanup at Headlands Beach State Park on Sept. 17 fit into a much larger lineup of similar events which took place in eight states along the Great Lakes, and on other coastlines worldwide.
In fact, the third Saturday of September each year marks both the September Adopt-a-Beach event carried out by the Alliance for the Great Lakes; as well as the International Coastal Cleanup.
"There are people out there all over the world on that third Saturday of September each year doing beach cleanups and showing their love for their local water bodies," said Jennifer Caddick, vice president of communications and engagement at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
For the alliance's 2022 edition of September Adopt-a-Beach, the organization was teaming up with various sponsors to conduct cleanups on beaches that border all five of the Great Lakes, said Caddick, who participated in a telephone interview with The News-Herald on Sept. 14.
In fact, Meijer sponsored two of these 2022 September Adopt-a-Beach cleanups. The other event took place in Michigan at Traverse City State Park beach, located on the coast of Lake Michigan.
Krupa was at Headlands Beach State Park on Sept. 17 to coordinate and oversee that particular cleanup. She said that the 31 volunteers were almost evenly divided between Meijer employees and members of the general public.
Three Meijer staff members who united to form a team at the event were Cassandra Robinson, Kelly Schreier and Bernardette Harned. They all work at the Meijer store in Lorain.
Schreier said she spent a lot of time at Lake Erie beaches while growing up in Sandusky and Huron. She also believes it's important to get involved in programs such as Adopt-a-Beach.
"You've got to keep the community beautiful," she said.
About a half-hour into the cleanup, Robinson said she and her team had picked up a lot of cigarette butts and pieces of plastic.
"With cigarette butts, people may not realize it's a synthetic material (a type of plastic called cellulose acetate) and it's not biodegradable," she said.
Krupa noted that between 85 percent and 90 percent of all the litter collected through the Adopt-a-Beach program is plastic.
"Plastic production has grown exponentially in the last couple decades," she said. "It's a material that never really goes away. So it only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces."
The Alliance for the Great Lakes seeks to attract volunteers for September Adopt-a-Beach events around the region through social-media postings and its lists of email contacts, Caddick said.
"It's a great all-ages activity," she said. "Anybody can participate."
Helen Boru and her daughter, Maggie Boru, are residents of Cleveland who drove to Headlands Beach State Park on the morning of Sept. 17 to help rid the beach of litter.
"I knew it was International Coastal Cleanup Day and we wanted to participate in a large cleanup for that, so we knew that the Alliance for the Great Lakes is hosting this one at Mentor Headlands," Helen said.
Maggie, who is 24 years old, said she had good memories of visiting Headlands Beach State Park as a child.
"So being able to clean up a beach that I did go to is really nice, and I feel like I'm making an impact in my community," she said.