Whether you are a conservationist or not, 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 19 for the thirtieth 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 91 countries and 560,000 volunteers removing more than 16 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans in just one day in 2014. Every item collected at 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.
*Graphics depict global stats from 2014 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, click here 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 Coral Cove Park on Jupitr Island this year. From 9-11 a.m., volunteers will hit the beach and the surrounding dunes to pick up litter and refuse, helping maintain one of the truly unique beaches of South Florida. The River Center asks volunteers to keep it green and bring their own buckets and gloves [community service hours are availabel for those in need]. For more information, call 561-743-7123 or click here; to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org with International Coastal Cleanup in the subject line.
- Jupiter Outdoor Center will tackle the International Cosatal Cleanup duties by sea, targeting Fullerton Island for a thorough scrubbing. Volunteers will tackle the trash problem by kayak and stand-up paddleboard from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a five-gallon container and gardening gloves for the deed. For more information, call 561-747-0063.
- 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. For more information, call 561-274-7263; commuity service hours available for those in need. For those looking to keep Delray Beach clean, enter Sandoway House Nature Center for event site.
- Gumbo Limbo Nature Center aims to clean Spanish River Park from 8-11 a.m. The cleanup will run from the beach to the Intracoastal, and all points in-between, helping eliminate the almost daily onslaught of marine detritus. Pre-registration is requiredl call 561-544-8615 for groups. To join the clean-up fun, enter Gumbo Limbo/Spanish River Park in the entry form.
- Help clean up Snook Islands Natural Area 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. 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 tackle cleaning up one of the most diverse diving spots in the county, Phil Foster Park and the Blue Heron Bridge. This year, PBCDA will only be conducting a shoreline cleanup, with registration beginning at 9 a.m. (high tide is in the afternoon). Following the cleanup, PBCDA will host its annual fundraiser and summer’s end party at the Lake Park Marina at 6:30 p.m. Admission costs $5; to attend, contact a PBCDA member (Pura Vida Divers at 888-348-3972). Proceeds from the event will benefit the Artificial Reef Fund.
- North Palm Beach residents, join the Friends of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park as they mount a cleanup of the 437-acre park from 9a.m.-12 p.m. 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. Make sure to enter MacArthur Beach State Park for the event site on the registration form.
- Loggerhead Marinelife Center is 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 and gloves (reusable please) 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.