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2019 International Coastal Cleanup

Held annually on the third Saturday of September, this year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) marked more than three decades of this important event. Started by The Ocean Conservancy, this world-wide coastal cleanup brings attention to a pervasive problem: marine debris. Marine debris is human-generated waste that ends up in coastal and marine areas. In addition to being unsightly, it can cause all sort of environmental problems such as the breaking down of plastic items into microplastics (which birds, fish, and even corals can ingest), interference with successful sea turtle nesting, and more.

This event brings awareness to the problem but not only engaging people in debris removal efforts, but also by collecting data on the items removed. This is how the Ocean Conservancy produces its annual report, highlighting the cumulative totals of most common items found during the event.

The Miami-Dade coordinator of the ICC is a locally based nonprofit organization, VolunteerCleanup.org. Their online platform makes it easy to locate cleanups throughout Miami-Dade County. According to VolunteerCleanup.org’s statistics, this year, Miami-Dade County logged 2,979 volunteers and 14,414 pounds of trash removed!

Ralph Ariza removes a makeshift shelter on Elliott Key at Biscyane National Park in the 2018 ICC. Image: Ana Zangroniz

Last year, I was the site captain for a cleanup at Biscayne National Park. An intrepid team of seven volunteers and I headed out to Elliott Key, the seven-mile long island which is the largest out of the northernmost Florida Keys. We removed marine debris from Petrel Point, one of the ocean-side sea turtle nesting beaches within the park. In just a few hours, we removed over 300 pounds of trash. This year I will be again captaining a cleanup at Biscayne, in partnership with the Park’s Interpretation division. To participate this year, please visit: https://www.volunteercleanup.org/miami_coastal_cleanup_day.