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Cleaning the Coast: Volunteers pick up beached trash

Six hundred environmentally conscious people beautified the coasts of the Miami-Dade area for the Florida Coastal Cleanup [FLCC] this week. Twenty-six of these participants have attended the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science [RSMAS]. Bear Cut Preserve, Bill Baggs Cape Florida Recreational Area, Crandon Park and the Village of Key Biscayne Beach Club were included in the 13 cleanup sites throughout Miami-Dade County.
According to Marella Crane, this year’s site coordinator for Bear Cut Preserve, 15 RSMAS students filled 30 bags of trash on almost a mile stretch of Virginia Key, and seven UM students volunteered their talents as underwater divers, responsible for collecting trash beneath the shoreline, at the Village of Key Biscayne.
The FLCC was founded in 1988 and is a branch of the International Coastal Cleanup, which was developed to track the types of debris on America’s beaches.
In the first year of FLCC, 10,500 Floridians cleaned 915 miles of shoreline, and 194 tons of debris were collected.
Last year, 32,497 Floridians participated in FLCC, and of those, 644 were from Miami-Dade County.
In 2002, Miami-Dade participants collected 14,010 pounds of waste, encompassing over 14 miles of shoreline.
In Florida, the five most common debris items of last year, in mounting order, were cigarettes [220,374], lids [66,710], food containers [63,025], beverage cans [56,018] and beverage bottles [48,204].
Unusual items found last year included a bread machine, the hood of a car, an IV bag and surgical scissors.
“Although data takes almost a year to calculate, trends normally don’t change dramatically from year to year,” Minka McDonald, this year’s regional coordinator of the coastal cleanup, said.
McDonald predicts that cigarette butts will once again top the list of the most common debris items found.
Some interesting items found this year: a barbeque grill and an air-conditioning unit.
“We hope people take a little more responsibility for their actions,” McDonald said. “People tend not to think about dropping trash.”
“Trash accumulates – it doesn’t disappear,” she said.
At Bear Cut Preserve, the majority of debris collected consisted of beer bottles and plastic items.
Crane speculates that the nearby restaurant and fishing dock contributed to the trash left in the area.
Organizers maintain that International Coastal Cleanup is very effective, as 5.2 million volunteers in 120 countries have participated since 1986.
“Coastal Cleanup helps us get hard data to figure out the problems and track trends in debris, as well as clean up [the beaches],” McDonald said. “It’s a really great event and does a lot of good. Participants clean up whatever trash is in the shoreline, mangroves and beaches that is not supposed to be there.”
“Animals can be saved by picking up plastic bags and fishing line,” Crane said. “[Coastal Cleanup] is a form of educational awareness.”
McDonald also said that the biggest improvement in the program, locally, would be an increase in volunteers and support.
According to McDonald, this becomes even more applicable in the light of the average amount of trash disposal per person per day in the United States: 4.6 lbs, the highest average in the world.
For more information on Coastal Cleanup, visit www.floridacoastalcleanup.org

Fizaa Dosani can be contacted at f.dosani@umiami.edu.

September 30, 2003

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.