Hundreds Pick up Litter in Virginia Key Beach Park

More than 1 million volunteers participated in the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, part of Ocean Conservancy’s mission of cleaning up oceans throughout the world, with one local contingent focused on Virginia Key Beach Park.

More than 200 volunteers showed up on Saturday morning to pick up trash on the island, one of 45 similar events happening throughout Miami-Dade County, and one of over 100 events happening from Palm Beach to Monroe counties.

Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. hosted the event in Virginia Key with a local partner, Ocean Conservancy representative Sarah Kollar organized the event.

The Super Bowl Host Committee also attended the event in preparation for Miami’s turn at hosting the big game in February 2020. On Sunday, the committee is scheduled to team up with the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, NFL Green, Verizon and other community leaders to transform Glenwood Park in Brownsville into a community garden space.

Charlene Galloway looks for trash along the coast, joining over a million others worldwide doing just the same for International Coastal Cleanup day. (Pablo Alvarez/SFMN)

President and Chairman Rodney Barreto noted the importance of keeping Miami clean.

“This is the 100th anniversary of the NFL, and we’re really excited to fight for the same cause- less plastic, less pollution and more recyclables,” Barreto said. “We’re going to try to collect 54 tons of plastic and recyclables in honor of the 54th Super Bowl game taking place here in Miami.”

Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, spoke to the group about the importance of coming out every year during the International Coastal Cleanup and partaking in the global movement of cleaning local areas.

“You are together with your community, your friends and colleagues, and you are contributing to your community, but you are also part of this global movement of over a million volunteers working together to clean the world’s waterways and beaches,” Searles Jones said.

Other local groups that took part included the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station and Debris Free Oceans.

Stephanie Moure and Natalie Mahomar from Pelican Harbor Seabird Station attended the event to show volunteers some of the birds they rescue, such as Pepe the Pelican and Mogley the Screech Owl, who suffers from permanent wing damage after a violent counter with a cat.

“We’re here to just spread the word about Pelican Harbor and the importance of saving native wildlife in Florida,” Moure said.

Mogley the Screech Owl suffers from permanent wing damage after a violent encounter with a cat. (Pablo Alvarez/SFMN)

Sofia Mesa and Esther Cai, representatives from Debris Free Oceans, said they focus on getting teens and young adults to reduce the amount of plastic waste they create.

“We try to encourage people to live life without plastics and give them the resources to do that,” Mesa said.

For the past 34 years, according to Ocean Conservancy’s site, International Coastal Cleanup day has brought together more than 12 million volunteers from 153 countries to collect more than 220 million pounds of trash along coastlines and waterways around the globe.

According to the site, “Scientists estimate that more than 17 billion pounds of plastic enter our ocean every year, threatening marine life from coral polyps to sharks, the health of people and local economies.”

Volunteers downloaded Ocean Conservancy’s mobile app, CleanSwell, where they could log, tally and measure the impact of the trash collected.

The collected trash from the event will go to Doral’s Covanta Energy waste management service, where the trash will burn instead of occupying space at a landfill.

Volunteers use reusable bags to pick up trash found along the beach. (Pablo Alvarez/SFMN)

Pablo Alvarez, a Cuban and Puerto Rican American, has interest in writing anything and everything regarding politics, the environment, community stories and much more. He wants to write groundbreaking stories that matter to readers and have an impact on them.