Whether you are a conservationist or a proponent of “clean coal,” there is one irrefutable fact about the state of our shores and waterways: They are absolutely filthy with man-made refuse. Though most is not deliberate, trash finds its way to our beaches, waterways and oceans at an alarming rate, causing damage to ecosystems, killing marine life and creating huge garbage patches in the world’s great oceanic gyres that are nearly unfathomable in size and scope. In the age of plastics, the impact of trash is long lasting, and the damage we are just now beginning to witness is the very tip of a gigantic iceberg.
It is easy to sit here and lecture, warn of the eminent danger and rail against the plastics industry, cavalier “throw-away” mentalities and human consumption in general. It is another thing altogether to actually get up and do something about the mess, helping reverse the tide. The Ocean Conservancy, the world’s largest organization focusing on the health of the marine environment, intends to do just that and will combat the oceanic pollution problem head-on September 15 for the twenty-seventh annual International Coastal Cleanup.
The world’s largest one-day volunteer effort to clean up the marine ecosystems, International Coastal Cleanup is truly a worldwide affair, with 152 countries and locations cleaning nearly 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers and oceans in just one day per year (as of the 2011 report covering the 25 year span of 1985-2010). Every item collected at the participating locations, from the smallest cigarette butt to shopping carts, is recorded—a thoroughly mundane task, but these records help give scientists, researchers, manufacturers and public officials a better understanding of what kinds of manufactured items are making their way to the sea, impacting not only marine life and ecosystems but also human health and coastal economic viability. The Pew Environmental Group just released the study “Overfishing Strips Tens of Millions from Southeast Economy,” which detailed the effects the fishing industry has had on the region between 2005-2009, from declining fish stocks to lost tourism dollars—and the moral is, our marine ecosystems are worth big bucks.
*Graphics depict global stats from 2011 International Coastal Cleanup. Courtesy of The Ocean Conservancy.
Though the International Coastal Cleanup is a global effort, Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful and plenty of local organizations are getting in on the “sea change” message. Here’s a roundup of some of the local cleanup locations where you can pitch in and give back to our seas. For the registration form, look to the top of the story and click the hyperlink "Registration Form" for the PDF. Be sure to add the appropriate cleanup site and email to the volunteer coordinator heading up your specific location.
- The River Center, a program of the Loxahatchee River District, will be targeting the litter at Burt Reynolds Park, the surrounding waterways and islands with the help of Jupiter Outdoor Center. Volunteers will tackle the trash problem by kayak, stand-up paddleboard (limited free rentals from JOC) and foot from 8 a.m to noon. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a five-gallon container and gardening gloves for the deed. Preregister at RiverCenter@Loxahatcheeriver.com or 561-743-7123; tag Burt Reynolds Park for event site.
- The Loxahatchee River District continues the good deeds as it tackles Jupiter Sound with the help of Jupiter Pointe Paddling. Kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and nonpaddlers are welcome (Jupiter Pointe Paddling will have a limited supply of stand-up paddleboards and kayaks for those who don’t have their own) to join the cleanup from 8 a.m. to noon. Preregister at RiverCenter@Loxahatcheeriver.com or 561-743-7123; tag Jupiter Sound for Event Site on the registration form.
- From 8-10 a.m., the Sandoway House Nature Center will hit the beaches of Delray Beach and Sandoway Park. The event is managed by the City of Delray Beach and the Sandoway House, and volunteers can preregister with Danica Sanborn at 561-274-7263 or email@example.com. For those looking to keep Delray Beach clean, enter Sandoway House Nature Center for event site.
- Help clean up Snook Islands by land and sea as Kayak Lake Worth paddles its way around the lagoon restoration project, cleaning the mangrove stands and seagrass beds. Join the effort whether you have a kayak or not (though there is a limited number of kayaks available). For details and to pre-register, call Kayak Lake Worth at 561-225-8250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For those interested in lending a hand by paddle, inquire about rental availability, and be sure to add Snook Islands in the event site line.
- The Palm Beach County Diving Association will take the cleanup below the surface at Phil Foster Park. Divers will help remove debris and monofilament from the fishing pier, while non-divers will tackle the refuse left at the park and beach. Participants must preregister with volunteer coordinator Shana Phelan at 561-840-8750, email@example.com. Check-in is 6:30 a.m. for divers, 8 a.m. for non-divers at the picnic tables near the playground. On the registration form, specify whether you are a diver or walker, and jot Phil Foster Park down for event site.
- North Palm Beach residents, join the Friends of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park as they mount a cleanup of the 437-acre park. By land, sea (kayakers wanted!) and beach, the cleanup is all encompassing and a mighty large calling, but with a solid volunteer squad, the park will be spick and span in a jiffy. To register, call Art Carton at 561-776-7449, ext. 109, or Arthur.firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to enter MacArthur Beach State Park for the event site on the registration form.
- The BlueFriends of Loggerhead Marinelife Center are determined to keep the ocean blue this International Ocean Cleanup by going green in their efforts. LMC is encouraging participants to bring five-gallon buckets for trash and go sans plastic garbage bags (though there will be bags on hand for those who show with no bucket). Cleanup starts at 8 a.m. promptly with a breakfast provided by Whole Foods Market to feed the hungry beach activists at 9 a.m. Register with coordinator Lynne Wells at email@example.com. Be sure to add Loggerhead Marinelife Center on the registration form for event site.
- Jupiter Island’s Coral Cove Park will be getting a helping hand from Ocean Rehab Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “improving the well being of ocean ecosystems through scientific research, education and public awareness relevant to understanding ocean reef ecosystems.” The cleanup begins at 9 a.m. with a special guest speaker at 10 a.m. Preregister with William Djubin at 561-308-8848 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit Coral Cove Park for the event site on the registration form.