By Tanya Mutton
It’s no secret that trash has a negative effect on the community and the delicate balance of the ecosystem, especially in the ocean, rivers and on the beaches, but what options are open to us to make a difference? Picking up after ourselves is the obvious answer, but we are all aware that not everyone follows this simple solution. We also have the problems of ships either deliberately or accidentally dumping trash in the ocean, and material carried to sea by rivers and estuaries, especially from large coastal cities, and then not only hurting marine life but also washing back ashore.
Enter KBB (Keeping Brevard Beautiful). Officially certified in 1981, KBB, through litter control, education, recycling and beautification programs and with the help of a network of volunteer groups, strives to maintain and improve the Brevard County environmnet. THey hold multiple events throughout the year, bringing people from all walks of life together to tackle this
common issue. At a recent event, more than 50 volunteers helped collect 5,600 pounds of trash and litter along the St. Johns River waterway. Just picture that in your mind. That amount of trash alone is an amazing and overwhelming problem, but these eco-volunteers continue to fight the good fight. After each cleanup, trash is weighed, separated (if not contaminated) and recycled when possible.
I recently met with the musical company, Kulcha Shok Muzik, who had organized a beach cleanup on Cocoa Beach as a network partner to KBB and set to work picking up trash. Kulcha Shok Muzik, whose work is often beach- and surfing-themed, do beach cleanups from Panama City Beach to Miami. They try to organize cleanups to coincide with their musical events and host about 10 events per year. Armed with my trash bag, gloves and trash stick, all provided by KBB, I set to work. My initial thoughts were that the beach looked clean and I would probably only find a few bits here and there, but I was wrong; I was shocked to see just how much trash is left behind or washed ashore on the beach and in the dunes. In under two hours, I had collected two full bags of trash consisting of cans, wine and beer bottles, packets, juice boxes, chip bags, plastic bags, a credit card, bicycle locks, cigarette butts, packets and silver wrappings, fast food packaging, straws and even a dead bird … the list goes on. The group collected multiple bags of litter plus discarded beach boards, furniture, blankets, towels and a canopy. It was disheartening to see so much debris just left about, but uplifting to know that I had helped in some small way to remove it.
After finishing up I sat down to talk to some of the volunteers to learn what motivates them. It was clear they are all passionate about keeping the environment clean.
They each have their shopping list of improvements they would like to see, but a sand grader beach cleaning machine stood out as a huge help to keep the beaches cleaner. Brevard County currently doesn’t have one. These dedicated individuals talked fondly of past events and many stories came up, like an event in Pompano Beach where 30 large buckets of cigarette butts were collected in one day (volunteers often concentrate on one type of trash at events because it makes a bigger statement about the problems at hand). I also met another “trashanardo,” Joe Whitson, who is a deputy sheriff in Osceola County, but attends cleanups up and down the Florida coastline. He is in the process of setting up a non-profit called BINAFIT, which aims to promote cleaning up the state’s beaches and getting fit at the same time — volunteers would clean up for 15 minutes then break for group yoga for 15 minutes. Who knew picking up garbage could be fun?
If you are interested in giving some of your time for a worthy cause, visit page 76 for upcoming events this month.
8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean each year
Over 14,000 animals admitted annually from trash related injuries to FL SPCA center in Ft. Lauderdale
250 million tons of trash dumped into the ocean each year
289,214pounds of litter from the roads, shores and waterways collected this year so
far by: Keeping Brevard Beautiful