Brothers Alex Kravitz, left, and Aiden Kravitz at a cleanup station...

Brothers Alex Kravitz, left, and Aiden Kravitz at a cleanup station at Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton Beach on Monday that their company, Relic Design, installed. Credit: John Roca

This spring, Smithtown hopes to enlist beachgoers in a battle against litter with cleanup stations from a Hamptons company whose designs are spreading across Long Island.

The stations — one at each beach — will hold four recycled plastic baskets next to municipal trash cans. Beachgoers can “pick up trash on their beach walks, offload at the trash cans and return the baskets when they’re done,” said Aiden Kravitz, CEO of Relic Design, the Remsenburg company that will do the Smithtown installations. The company has set up similar stations at dozens of East End and North Fork beaches.

Beachgoers at those spots have turned in bottle caps, single-use plastic containers and tennis balls, Kravitz said, but the company does not track trash tonnage at its stations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Long Island Sound office has listed Relic as one of dozens of partner organizations in a 2022 plan to reduce marine debris.

In March, Smithtown's town board approved an agreement allowing Relic to provide the stations and upkeep for free; town workers will empty the trash cans. Relic covers expenses by selling advertising on a 14-by-4-inch sign posted at each station. Relic plans to install the stations before Memorial Day but has yet to find sponsors for its Smithtown stations, Kravitz said. The stations are planned for Long Beach, Schubert’s Beach, Short Beach and Callahans Beach, he said.

Kravitz, 27, a computer and electrical engineer from Westhampton Beach, said he and his brother, Alex Kravitz, 25, started their company to improve the water quality in local bays. With partners Jack Fink, 27, and Kasey Chock, 27, friends from Westhampton Beach High School, they launched the company’s first venture in 2016, selling T-shirts to fund oyster seeding in Moriches Bay. 

The cleanup stations, introduced in Westhampton in 2020, are intended to enlist Long Island bathers and loungers in direct action, he said: “Anybody who walks up to a station for the first time can deduce why it’s there … the heart of this is that there’s plastic washing up on our beaches.” 

That is a problem that Mark Tedesco, director of the EPA's Long Island Sound office, has worried about for years.

“The problem of debris in all of our coastal areas — beaches, marshes, open water — can affect our enjoyment of the water but also negatively affect marine life and the health of the ecosystem,” he said. Major trash washups in the 1980s — some including hypodermic needles — yielded large-scale disposal improvements, he said, but plastic, often in the form of packaging, has become ubiquitous, and often ends up in the water or on beaches.

The EPA's marine debris reduction plan focuses on reducing and mitigating the impact of single-use plastics, abandoned fishing gear and tiny pellets or degraded pieces of plastic called microplastics.

If employed as part of a broader strategy to prevent waste from entering the landscape, cleanup stations and volunteer cleanups can cut the amount that ends up on beaches, he said. 

In Southampton, with a dozen cleanup stations, parks director Kristen Doulos said the effect was noticeable. "People are very invested in their beaches — not everybody's doing it, but even if we get one person a day, it helps."    

Smithtown officials said town beaches were generally clean and that workers already do some cleanup, sometimes dragging large surf rakes across the sand. But Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo, who heard Kravitz’s presentation earlier this year, said “any little bit helps,” especially during summer, when attendance jumps.

Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said the station at Long Beach, where summer evening concerts can draw more than 1,000 people, could be particularly helpful.

Michelle Garry, a Smithtown resident and retired Nassau County police officer who pitched the cleanup station idea to town officials after seeing one in Wading River, said most of her fellow residents “have good intentions to clean up after themselves, but this program encourages you to go out there and do it, rather than as an afterthought.”

Relic beach cleanup stations 

There are 45 stations, with 75 in 15 municipalities, from Southold and East Hampton to Port Jefferson, expected by the end of spring. The company has no Nassau County stations. 

Source: Relic

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