Mission: Cleanup Miami - A Community Cleanup

Mission: Cleanup Miami - A Community Cleanup

Early on Saturday morning, we arrived at Historic Virginia Key to gusts of wind rippling across the sea, it was as if the ocean was welcoming our arrival. Historic Virginia Key holds great ecological and historical significance, it was the sole black-only beach in Miami during the time of segregation. This area was frequented by prolific civil rights leaders and musicians such as Martin Luther King Jr. and James Brown.

Today Virginia Key is home to leading marine and atmospheric research labs that model the effects of climate change on coral reefs. This area is loved by the community and needed a little cleanup before the park's busy season.

Volunteers arrived and were sent out to clean along the coastline and through the mangrove forest trails. One of the most notable finds was an old glass bottle that acted as a terrarium for a variety of different plants. 

Miami Bottle Trash

The most common type of trash we found were single-use plastics which are often used for 5 minutes but remain in the environment forever. #endsingleuse

There are many ways we can be a part of the solution to the single-use plastic problem. We can bring reusables like water bottles and meal kits with us wherever we go. We can also advocate for policy initiatives that increase access to recycling and composting, especially in areas that do not have this infrastructure.

Our non-profit partner Debris Free Oceans (DFO) is working tirelessly to eradicate plastic from reefs and beaches through education, bold policy advocacy, and cleanups. DFO is making waves in Miami and we are so lucky to have partnered with them.

"All in all, 60 volunteers were able to remove 275 lbs of trash from Virginia Key."

At around noon, we began to weigh in the trash as volunteers enjoyed complimentary tacos for lunch. 
A 25 L Transit Pack and 25 L Convertible Carryall were awarded to those who found the most interesting piece of trash (a washed-up baby doll… creepy) and the volunteer who guessed that we would collect 275 lbs of trash!

Virginia Key Miami Group Photo

On Monday morning we headed out to another area in Southern Florida, Biscayne National Park. United by Blue partnered with Clean This Beach Up and Biscayne National Park to clean a heavily polluted shoreline on Elliot Key. This area is home to an endangered sea turtle nesting ground. These tiny hatchlings, which are only 2 to 3 inches long, already have to overcome many obstacles to survive. The last thing they need is a plastic bottle or long line of fishing rope to get tangled up in before they make their journey out to sea. 

With this in mind, our crew of 9 loaded up our gear and took a 30-minute boat ride to the remote Morgan beach. Here, we waded 150 yards through chest-deep water to the shoreline with all of our gear. Once on land, we fanned out along the coastline and began bagging up plastic, glass, and styrofoam that layout across the sand.

Biscayne National Park Cleanup Crew

The real work started once we arrived at the mangrove forest, there were 100s of feet of fishing line that were tangled within their aerial root system. We spent the morning sawing and cutting the ropes in hopes of freeing debris from the clutches of the forest. Sometimes we were successful, other times we were unable to free the fishing gear.

Biscayne National Park - Roots Trash

A notable find was 22 balloons that littered just 100m of shoreline. Most of the balloons were heart-shaped and likely released during Valentine's Day this past month. When the balloons wash up on shore their coloring fades and all that is left is a clear bag. They look quite similar to jellyfish which are the main food source for leatherback sea turtles. We can make a big difference in the lives of these turtles by puncturing balloons and disposing of them properly so that they do not end up in the ocean. 

"After just 90 minutes of trash collection, we were able to collect 1,114 pounds of marine debris."

There were still some fishing nets that were too tangled to retrieve but the National Park Service hopes to get back to Morgan’s beach to finish the job soon. 

Witnessing the scale of the plastic pollution crisis at Elliot Key was quite daunting but it cemented the importance of this work. Your support truly makes an impact. The water bottle or bag that you purchased helped to remove a few plastic bottles that were blocking a sea turtle hatchling from entering the ocean. There is so much more to do but with the continued support from our community, we will be able to leave this world better than we found it. 

We cannot do this work alone. Other corporations must step up and help tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

If you or your company is interested in partnering with us for a cleanup, please let us know by filling out this form.

If you are interested in joining us for an upcoming cleanup, go here to see all the upcoming community cleanups.

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