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Lee County participates in world’s largest beach cleanup

PHOTO PROVIDED Volunteers on the Sanibel Causeway for the International Coastal Cleanup.
PHOTO PROVIDED Discarded glove.
PHOTO PROVIDED An International Coastal Cleanup volunteer picks up trash.

Keep Lee County Beautiful is the local organizer of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Taking place over the course of 35 years, the cleanup has removed nearly 315 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways worldwide. It remains the largest, global volunteer effort to remove trash from local shorelines.

The Lee County 2020 ICC took place on a much smaller scale due to gathering restrictions amid concerns over coronavirus. Only select cleanup locations participated, with a limited number of volunteers practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings. A number of independent cleanups also took place across the county. Even as the volunteers practiced social distancing, there was still plenty to be done to protect the ocean from plastic pollution.

Ocean plastic pollution is on the rise making the cleanup especially important this year. From increased food delivery waste to medical equipment like gloves and masks, the pandemic is aggravating the problem. Any gloves or masks that find their way into the waters can easily be mistaken for jellyfish, a favorite food of sea turtles. The elastic components of masks have increased risks of entanglement for a wide variety of fish, animals and birds. Scientists predict global ocean plastic pollution to double by the year 2030.

Hundreds of Keep Lee County Beautiful volunteers made a difference and positive impact on the health of the local coast and ocean. In addition to cleaning thousands of pounds of trash from beaches and waterways, they contributed to the world’s largest database on marine debris by logging each item to help inform policy and determine solutions to the growing pollution crisis. Keep Lee County Beautiful will be able to see what was uploaded for Lee County and add it to the amounts gathered at coordinated sites so that it will have a comprehensive set of data to track local trash trends.