MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Over the weekend, South Florida joined a worldwide effort to remove tons of trash and debris from our oceans and waterways on International Coastal Cleanup Day.
The worldwide mission launched by the Ocean Conservancy nonprofit 36 years ago is bigger and more urgent than ever, involving 160 countries.
“It’s grown tremendously,” said J.P. Brooker, the Florida Conservation Director for Ocean Conservancy. “I’ve been with Ocean Conservancy for eight years, and in those eight years I’ve seen more turnout, more care, more passion about Florida’s ocean and coasts.”
More than 50 cleanups were held all over Miami-Dade County with over 3,000 volunteers taking part from Elliott Key and Biscayne National Park to Oleta State Park in North Miami Beach. A record 17,771 pounds of trash was collected in Miami-Dade alone.
“Today we collected 200 pounds of trash and over 1,000 cigarette butts,” said Desiree DiClemente DiSalvo of Sun of a Beach Cleanup. “Please remember to bin your butt.”
“We picked up 284 pounds of trash,” Clean Miami Beach founder Sophie Ringel said. “Miami, we need to stop littering!”
And by Port Miami, Revolution 93.5 joined forces with Clean This Beach Up to clean up the MacArthur Causeway.
“Today with 126 volunteers we were able to remove almost 1,400 pounds of marine debris from our shoreline,” Clean This Beach Up founder MJ Algarra said. “What a great way to celebrate International Coastal Cleanup Day.”
But the motherload of trash came from the Miami Marine Stadium basin, a problem area Local 10 News has featured several times this year. Volunteers from Sendit4thesea picked up more than 2,000 pounds of garbage
“The problem is not only not going away, it’s getting much worse and it’s because of our consumption of single-use plastics,” said Dave Doebler of VolunteerCleanup.Org.
A lack of consciousness and lack of respect for our environment are also big factors. A Local 10 viewer shared a recent video of a boater dumping his trash right on the beach at Elliott Key.
I’ve shared this video on every platform, if our county and our cities fail to enforce litter laws and dumping laws, then maybe we can at least identify him and call him out for his utter thoughtless and selfishness. Boater dumps trash on beach at Elliott Key in #BiscayneBay. pic.twitter.com/IiVTV2Xswi— Louis Aguirre (@LOUISAGUIRRE) September 22, 2021
“It’s hard to understand why someone would leave plastic or any other kind of garbage on the beach,” said Adam Blalock, Deputy Secretary for Ecosystems Restoration for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Still, 80% of the litter found in our bay and oceans comes from land-based sources.
According to Ocean Conservancy, the top five items picked up from this year’s cleanups were:
- Cigarette butts
- Bottle caps
- Food wrappers
- Water and soda bottles
- Plastic bags
It’s the scourge of our wildlife, as we’ve lost an unprecedented 937 manatees so far this year. Most of them are starving to death as their food source disappears, acres of seagrass gone because of pollution.
The good news is that more and more people are waking up and the eco-army is growing.
“You see the problem and it’s never-ending,” Doebler said. “But then you have events like this and you realize that there are so many good humans out in the world who do care and want to make a difference.”
If you missed it, don’t worry. There are cleanups happening every weekend here in South Florida. For a list of many of the organizations that hold them, click here.