On a sunny morning in April, over 30 volunteers arrived at Destin’s Norriego Point for the 2019 Earth Day Coastal Cleanup. Sponsored by the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and the City of Destin, the clean-up targeted the small, hard-to-gather items that often litter our beaches and confuse wildlife species that think the tiny pieces are food.
Hitting the sand with garbage bags as well as plastic buckets, the volunteers scoured the edge of the newly restored dune, the shoreline edges, and within the rock groins themselves. All together, the volunteers collected over 170 cigarette butts, over 550 tiny trash pieces, as well as fishing line, wire, treated wood pieces, and fireworks.
Across the world, plastic pollution remains a large and growing problem. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, there are up to 50 trillion pieces of plastic across the world’s oceans. How can we reduce this immense burden not only on ecosystem health, but ours too?
In addition to participating in local cleanups, coastal citizens can reduce the amount of plastic they use on a daily basis by utilizing cloth grocery bags, reusable mugs and metal beverage containers. Recycle what you can, properly dispose of what you can’t.
In our community, clean-ups are a way to not only remove marine debris from our shorelines, but also educate future beach stewards about the items that can wash up on our shores.
Earlier in the month, the Boys and Girls Club joined forces with CBA, the Crab Trap, United Way, and the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department to gather pollution and trash at three locations on Okaloosa Island. With more than 300 volunteers participating, including over 75 from Boys and Girls Club, the groups gathered over 8,000 cigarette butts in addition to a plethora of other items. As in other locations within the International Coastal Cleanup movement, the cigarette refuse remains our most commonly recorded item.
“It was a pleasure for United Way to partner with Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast as they hosted Florida Youth of the Year participants,” says Cindy Holmes, Resource Development Director for United Way of Okaloosa and Walton Counties, “It’s always a joy to see young people care about the environment and to participate in programs like the beach cleanup.”
“People who live near and visit the coast can participate in their own cleanups year round,” says Alison McDowell, Director of CBA. “Bring a bag with you and pick up whatever you find while on walks or fishing.”
“Additionally,” she continues, “CBA collects fishing line from multiple, artistically decorated receptacles in Destin Harbor, on the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier, and within Ross Marler and Veterans Park. Together we can reduce the amount of plastic entering our waterways.”
Each year, CBA works with partner organizations for multiple coastal cleanups in both the fall and spring. For more information and future dates, follow CBA on Facebook at Facebook.com/basinalliance.