The Raccuglia family of Pleasant Plains has something—or someone, rather!—to be proud of: Their 11-year-old son, Vincent, who worked tirelessly this summer to help keep New Jersey and Staten Island beaches clean!
The family spent a lot of time at the beaches of Monmouth, Long Beach Island and Staten Island this year. Although young Vincent could’ve enjoyed swimming, playing Boardwalk games or doing a plethora of other fun things that kids do in the summer, he decided to do something that would make more of an impact on the world.
Whether he spent an afternoon at Lemon Creek, or was on vacation with his family at the Jersey Shore, the young Staten Islander combed the shorelines to pick up litter so residents, visitors and local wildlife can enjoy and thrive in a clean environment.
“I just do it because I love the environment,” Vincent said.
Vincent Raccuglia: Making a Difference for New Jersey and Staten Island Beaches
Although a litter-lined beach is an eyesore for anyone, much of Vincent’s motivation for cleaning up the areas was to protect animals.
And his effort to help wildlife is important, especially when it comes to the catastrophic effects plastic refuse has on animals. The Sea Turtle Conservancy reports that over 1 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. More than 80% of this plastic comes from land. It washes out from our beaches and streets.
(You can learn more about how to protect sea turtles and other marine animals here.)
“I just don’t like seeing the animals die,” Vincent said as he recounted a story about going on a school trip to a local beach and seeing a dead turtle laying on the sand, with a plastic bag in his mouth.
“Animals have feelings. They’re living creatures, so I just help them out,” he said.
While Vincent has an inner drive to help the environment, he admits to getting a few tips and learns a lot from YouTube videos about beach cleanups, trash collection and animals.
Sadly this summer, there was no shortage of trash to pick up at the New Jersey or Staten Island beaches. From late June to early September, Vincent filled at least five large Home Depot buckets (which usually hold about five gallons each) from the Jersey Shore beaches. He also came across larger pieces of debris on Staten Island, including tires that most likely washed up from the surrounding waters.
Other items that Vincent collected and disposed of include lots of plastic bottles, cans, wrappers, fishing line, fabrics, and random pieces of plastic and rubber.
After collecting the trash and putting it all into the buckets, Vincent brought it all to the appropriate nearby receptacles and placed it inside. On most days, he collected so much trash that he’d have to make multiple trips from the area he was cleaning to the trash cans and back again. This sometimes took up to two hours a day.
New Jersey and Staten Island Beaches: Keeping it Clean
Keeping communities clean is something that runs in the Raccuglia family. And the anti litter-bug apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Vincent’s father Joseph works for NYC Department of Sanitation.
Interestingly enough, however, Joseph never prompts his son to do this good work—cleaning NJ and Staten Island beaches—it’s something the younger Raccuglia has always done on his own for quite a while now.
His regular cleanups of New Jersey and Staten Island beaches started a few years ago, specifically in Monmouth Beach, where his grandmother lives.
“Over time, it just really progressed,” Joseph said. “He’s obsessed with doing it. He’ll go around the neighborhood. We live in a cul-de-sac, and he’ll clean it, free of charge, and just tidy up.”
Needless to say, Joseph and his wife are tremendously proud of Vincent, who has a twin brother and an older half brother.
When the eco-conscious kid isn’t busy doing beach cleanups, he enjoys helping his dad cook and playing with his cat. He also shared a bit of advice for anyone reading this who wants to do a little bit–or a little bit more–to help the environment.
“When you see an overflowing garbage pail, don’t keep piling things on top of it,” he recommended. “Try to find another one.”
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