MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – “Wow, I can’t believe so much trash again,” Sophie Ringel says. “Stop using single-use plastic!”
It’s become a bit of a mantra for the founder of the nonprofit Clean Miami Beach.
Ringel, a 36-year-old German ex-pat, has been cleaning up Miami Beach ever since she moved here six years ago.
She came here because she fell in love — with her future husband Yunasi and with Miami. She soon found out that many residents didn’t seem to care about their city the way she did.
“I went for my daily walks along the dunes and I noticed so much trash,” Ringel says.
She found garbage in the dunes, on the beach, on the causeways and the waterways.
And it made her angry.
“After three days of being so upset about the trash, I decided to do something about it,” she says. “So started to pick it up.”
Ringel wasn’t alone. She noticed others doing the same thing.
“It’s our planet and we have one planet and we have no backup,” says volunteer Nicola Ianeselli.
Says fellow volunteer Catherine Lowe: “This is our home because we swim here all the time. So it’s our place to pick up. It’s what we want to leave clean.”
An eco-army soon began to form. And that’s how Clean Miami Beach was born. It’s a volunteer organization with the “soul” mission of picking up all the garbage and trash littering our precious backyard.
“The week after that we were four people and the week after that six, and it just continued to grow week by week by week to a point where we were 140 people at one pick up,” Ringel says.
For two years, it’s been nearly nonstop. Ringel organizes at least one cleanup a week, sometimes 2 or 3 after an especially trashy weekend.
“Scientists say there are 5 trillion pieces of plastic right there and I see it on a daily basis,” Ringel says. “How it just gets washed ashore over and over again.”
But she and her growing force of eco-warriors are not giving up, hoping their efforts will inspire others to do the same
“It’s our backyard,” Ringel says. “Our whole life depends on it, our tourism depends on it, our children’s health depends on our oceans.
“I personally don’t like picking up other people’s trash, but leaving it in nature is even worse.”
Ringel receives no money or compensation for what she does and relies solely on donations from the public to fund Clean Miami Beach. If you’d like to donate or join the next cleanup, go to cleanmiamibeach.org.