A contest to rid North Fork beaches of litter

Earlier this summer, amid national unrest following the murder of George Floyd, Estefany Molina of Greenport set out to host a series of bicycle protests, riding 25 miles in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ms. Molina and a group of cyclists have already completed several such rides this summer, usually trekking from Southold out to Orient. Those quiet rides offer moments of reflection on issues like race and injustice, but also called attention to a local environmental issue: beach litter, impossible to ignore as she crossed the causeway into Orient.

“It’s a shame,” Ms. Molina said in an interview Thursday. “Because the causeway is such a beautiful strip. To look up and see ospreys and then look down and see litter all over the place is unfortunate. It takes away from the reason why everyone is so attracted to where we live.” 

Now she’s calling on others to “put your plastic where your mouth is” and unite to pick up trash for the #NorthForkBeachCleanUp contest set to begin Sept. 1.

The friendly competition will task teams of 4-6 people with collecting beach litter during the month of September, with prizes available for teams that collect the most trash.

Socially-distant weekly weigh-ins will be held on Wednesdays at the Lin Beach House in Greenport, Ms. Molina said, and a winner will be declared Sept. 30. Prizes up for grabs include a two-hour sail for up to six people with Layla Sailing for first prize and a create-your-own-gin experience with Matchbook Distilling.

“If it’s not supposed to be there, pick it up,” Ms. Molina said, adding that teams are also asked not to include personal, household waste items. During the weigh-ins, debris will be sorted through for materials that can be donated to UpSculpt, a local nonprofit organization founded by artist Cindy Pease Roe, who uses things like plastic found in the ocean in her work to call attention to environmental issues.

Ms. Molina isn’t the only one taking notice of what seems to be an uptick in beach litter this year. Since May, local residents have been capturing photos and videos of trash left behind at local beaches.

“Given the pandemic and the exodus of so many people coming to the North Fork, so many people are going to the beach all the time just as a means to get outside, get away and socially distance,” she said.

While she originally hoped to host a beach cleanup and other events, like poetry jams, in the spring, Ms. Molina hopes the end of summer cleanup will encourage a little bit of friendly competition in such polarizing times.

“There’s a lot going on politically, socially and ethically but one thing we all have in common is the environment,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to show that we can come together and work for a common cause.”

Ms. Molina said all are welcome to participate, including groups from local businesses, families and friends. 

Teams are asked to sign up by Aug. 28 by emailing [email protected] with their official team name, names of team members. They are also asked to make a $25 donation via Venmo to help properly dispose of the waste.