Beach bummer

When it comes to Northland waterfronts, there’s good news and bad news.

It’s tough to put a number on the amount of pebbles, waves and stunning scenes the beaches of Duluth and the North Shore provide. But here are some things we can add up: 4,000 cigarette butts, 500 plastic bags, one recliner, one microwave and a pair of hip waders.

That was just some of the 1.75 tons of garbage found at 25 beach sites in September and October by volunteers taking part in the annual “beach sweep” hosted by the Great Lakes Aquarium in cooperation with the Ocean Conservancy. The 16th event marked what organizers are calling a record haul, which is either a sad commentary about all the people tossing garbage on beaches and waterways or a stirring achievement by all those volunteers finding more of what’s out there. Factor in the June flood and the latter aspect might be the way to look at things.

The 300 volunteers collected more than triple the reported garbage haul collected in any other year. There also was a record turnout, more than 20 percent above the high-water mark the past 16 years.