Volunteers of all ages turned out for a cheerful spring cleaning of Island beaches Saturday morning as part of the 26th annual Earth Day beach cleanup. Hundreds of people, trash bags in hand, picked up litter along 26 Island beaches on a warm, sunny spring day.

Sponsored by the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), the event was a collaboration of more than 20 Island organizations. VCS membership and events coordinator Signe Benjamin estimated that many tons of trash were removed over the course of the cleanup, most of it plastic.

Picking up trash at State Beach. — Steve Myrick

“If we don’t get it from the beaches, it will go right back into the oceans,” she said.

The Friends of Sengekontacket was one of the many groups that pitched in. President Mike Krause helped hand out bags and gloves at State Beach where newly planted beach grass was just starting to grow.

“We’ve had a lot of people come out,” he said, adding that he had seen people who had been coming for almost every Earth Day cleanup since it started.

Hannah Buckley, age six, said she and her friends found socks, soda cans and even fireworks as they searched around the dunes and bushes on State Beach. She said her favorite part of the cleanup was every part — she just wanted to make sure jellyfish wouldn’t get sick from all of the trash.

“If there was lots of trash, even in the ocean, it would be the worst day ever,” she said.

At the end of the morning cleanup, volunteers gathered at the Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs for an after party with lunch and raffle prizes provided by VCS. The park building was packed with volunteers enjoying Bobby D’s pizza and chili prepared by chef Josh Aronie.

Many tons of trash were collected in 26th annual event sponsored by the Vineyard Conservation Society. — Steve Myrick

Katie Ruppel and John Stanwood had done their morning work at the Katama town landing, where they said there were fewer people but lots of trash, particularly styrofoam from boats. Ms. Ruppel said it was their first time participating in the event and it’s made her rethink Earth Day, which she had considered silly because every day should be treated like Earth Day.

“I’m a turnaround grinch on Earth Day,” Ms. Ruppel said.

VCS executive director Brendan O’Neill told the crowd over lunch that he sees the annual cleanup as making a difference in keeping the Island beautiful and healthy. Ms. Benjamin added that she’s seen more and more people participate in the cleanup every year. And new beaches continue to be added, including Jetty Beach and areas of Menemsha Pond this year.

“People are always in good spirits,” Ms. Benjamin said. “It’s something people love and are excited to do. It’s heartwarming.”

Islanders are encouraged to continue cleaning up beaches and parks on Sunday, the official Earth Day. Island refuse district are accepting trash collected from beaches and roadsides free of charge.