Worth its weight in garbage

350 pounds of junk cleared in latest PEP cleanup

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The annual Protecting the Environment in Patchogue (PEP) River Cleanup at Watch Hill ferry terminal resulted in the removal of 350 pounds of refuse from the area in and around the Patchogue River. This year marks a decline in tonnage from past years, proving to PEP that their actions have worked.

“The message is getting out. People get it,” said Joseph Keyes, PEP founder and co-chair.

This year, 100 volunteers picked up 350 pounds of trash, a steep decrease from 2019, when 150 volunteers removed 550 pounds. In 2018, when the cleanup was first organized, nearly two times more garbage was collected over this year—650 pounds of trash was picked up by 120 people.

For Kaetlyn Jackson, PEP’s co-chair, the numbers prove that people are taking a cue from PEP, throwing their trash in a can instead of in the street. Also, Jackson thinks the village-wide ban on Styrofoam and plastic bags resulted in less overall trash.

“Over the years, we’ve noticed a trend that the implementation of the bags ban was successful. There’s been a great decrease in what we’re picking up on the roadways—and that’s of Styrofoam and single-use plastic bags,” she said. 

After the cleanup, volunteers met at Blue Point Brewery for an after-party in the outdoor beer garden. There, volunteers cooled their haunches while still wearing their PEP-issued blue T-shirts as a badge of honor, earned after a morning of hard work. As an added bonus, volunteers over 21 years old were given a free beer token.

The event included local vendors selling their wares, such as candles named after Long Island’s hamlets and plant holders made of crème-colored macramé. Several businesses were Patchogue-based.

Volunteers ran the gamut, from local residents to St. Joseph’s College students—20 of whom cleaned the area at the top of the lake, near the college. Another 20 volunteers from the Church of the Nazarene picked up around Shorefront Park.

“That really helped us out a lot this year,” Keyes said of the church volunteers.

Volunteers stuffed the trash they found into green biodegradable bags, which at the end of the morning were collected and weighed. In addition to the Watch Hill ferry terminal cleanup, PEP hosts a number of community cleanups each year, including the Spooky Halloween cleanup, slated for Saturday, Oct. 16. Jackson said they might host another cleanup this spring.

Jackson warned residents that while overall littered refuse is down, there has been an increase in littered personal protective equipment.

“We still need to be vigilant because since COVID, there has been an increase in single-use masks and nitrile gloves that are found,” she said.

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