Mich. (PRESS RELEASE/WJMN) – After a long winter, there’s nothing better than spending a warm, spring day along a Great Lakes shoreline. But coming across pieces of garbage can not only ruin the view but can also cause harm to our wildlife and our environment.

The Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach program is kicking off its annual beach clean-up effort starting on April 24. New and returning volunteers are needed from all 8 Great Lakes states to protect and preserve its waters.

“40 million people get their drinking water from the Great Lakes, and so it’s important that that resource is clean,” said Tyrone Dobson, the senior volunteer engagement manager for Alliance for the Great Lakes. “And there also is to be said that there are than 3,500 species of animals that call the Great Lakes home. And the last thing that I would say why it’s important to protect them is that it’s ours, that we are all owners. This is our collective resource, and so when something is yours, you take care of it.”

The Alliance for the Great Lakes is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit working to protect our region’s most precious resource: the fresh, clean, and natural waters of the Great Lakes.”

Each year about 85% of the litter picked up by Adopt-a-Beach volunteers is made up of plastic and cleanups help to keep this pollution out of our Great Lakes.

“Where [Adopt-a-Beach] differs from most programs is that we keep track of each individual litter item that we pick up. So, the individual number of cigarette butts, plastic forks or knives, foam pieces, straws, things like that. There are 46 items that we keep track of, and then we ultimately share that data with ocean conservancies, and well as other research institutions across the region that are doing environmental research on a whole host of issues,” said Dobson.

Although the kick-off begins Saturday, beach clean-ups will be held throughout the year, until winter hits. If you would like to volunteer for the Adopt-a-Beach program, click here where you can find beach clean-ups in your area. If there isn’t one yet, you can create your own, whether it’s just you or a group of friends. Information is also available on how to properly track the litter you’re picking up and where to provide your data.