HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – As the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches and the summer heat intensifies, more and more people are heading to the beach. That also means more and more trash.
The City of Hollywood is bracing for impact and trying to send the message that single-use plastics and styrofoam are not welcome.
“We’re talking foam cups, plastic cups, straws, lids, utensils, plastic takeout containers, foam containers — anything that is single use plastic or non-biodegradable,” city spokeswoman Joann Hussey said.
It’s been the law there for three years, since the city passed an ordinance essentially banning all single-use plastics and styrofoam on the beach, which includes the distribution of those items from restaurants and vendors along the Broadwalk.
The problem is, not many people know about it or they just don’t care.
“It’s people bringing it in from home,” Hussey said. “That’s why this education is so important to ask people to just leave it at home.”
The city admits it’s difficult to enforce. Still, last year Hollywood passed a similar ordinance to include all city-owned property and parks west of the barrier island. Leaders are now imploring all residents and visitors to please comply.
The trash here is simply getting out of control.
“I think it’s a problem everywhere in South Florida,” Hussey said. “Anywhere you go you see plastic straws and bottles and utensils all over the place.”
Our cameras captured it ourselves. Even after morning crews groomed the beach and picked up all the trash from the day before, it wasn’t hard to find more litter. Most of it was items that shouldn’t be on the beach to begin with: styrofoam cups, plastic utensils, plastic bottles, plastic bags.
They’re items that get easily picked up by the wind and blown down the beach — or worse, into the water, where they can injure or kill marine life.
Desiree DiClemente DiSalvo has been fighting this fight for years.
“Every day the beach is trashy,” she said. “I clean up the beach every day.”
In 2017, DiSalvo founded Sun Of A Beach Cleanup, a volunteer-fueled operation to try to control the trash and pollution littering the beaches and waterways of Broward County.
She says the trash situation has gotten progressively worse. It’s only June, and so far this year she’s picked up over 1,000 pounds of litter.
“I think people during the pandemic got a little lazier and more careless with their trash so I definitely fear it’s getting worse,” DiSalvo said.
Beach crews work seven days a week to make sure that the beach is as clean as possible. But public works and cleanup organizations can only do so much. If our beaches are going to thrive and survive, it’s up to all of us to be a part of the solution.
“It’s too much for the government to handle on their own,” DiSalvo said. “It has to start with your own choices.”
Said Hussey: “We’re in an urban environment with a beautiful beach attached, so we all have to do our part to make sure that it’s clean and beautiful so we can all enjoy.”
To get involved with Sun Of A Beach Cleanup, visit their Instagram page @SunofaBeachCleanup — organized cleanup dates will be posted there.