Check out the results of a record-breaking community cleanup!
Matheson Hammock is a beautiful park located just south of Coral Gables, FL. It's most known for its manmade atoll, which is especially popular among families. Along with its spectacular ocean views featuring a distant Miami skyline, the park is also well known for its unique mangrove trails which is where the majority of our cleanup efforts were focused.
Why mangroves matter to people
It is important to first understand just how important mangroves are not only to young marine life, but also for us humans. Did you know that mangroves can reduce wave activity by as much as 50%? When large storms such as hurricanes roll through, there is significantly less damage to coastlines that have mangroves when compared to coastal communities that do not have mangroves. Mangrove habitats also help to diminish erosion from tides and strong storms.
Why mangroves matter to the ocean
At Matheson Hammock, we found that mangroves help in another way that not as many people may be aware of: they trap ocean-bound trash. Their intricate and dense prop roots collect large amounts of trash. While it is fortunate that the mangrove forests in Matheson Hammock trap ocean-bound trash before it has a chance to make its way out to the open ocean, it is unfortunate because such large amounts of marine debris can disrupt and destroy these sensitive ecosystems, which are often referred to as "marine nurseries" because of all the baby marine animals that call it home.
What we found in the mangroves
Our team was joined by 512 participants who devoted their Saturday morning to make sure Matheson Hammock was much cleaner than when we arrived. As the morning progressed the pile of gathered marine debris grew larger and larger.
Participants in the cleanup found everything from small microplastics and cigarette butts, which we find at all our cleanups, to larger items like discarded buoys and ropes. We even found a refrigerator door!
Our 10' x 20' tarp was soon piled high from end to end with discarded fishing ropes, plastic PET bottles, glass bottles, aluminum cans, and broken off, treated wood planks with rusty nails.
Many of the larger items were not able to be recycled; however, the buoys that are still in good condition will be repurposed and used in the marina and waters surrounding Matheson Hammock.
We pulled 5,120 pounds of plastic and trash in total. Of that, 454 pounds were recyclable material, which we brought back to our facility to be sorted, rinsed, and sent to our local recycling facility where it can be given new life.
Why community cleanups are important
Our community cleanups are not only important for the marine environments that we help to protect and restore by removing trash, but also for the local communities to be aware of the growing problem of marine debris and plastic pollution.
Out of the single-use plastic items collected from this particular shoreline cleanup, there were:
That's right! Nearly 3,000 bottle caps. Can you imagine what that many bottle caps look like? We couldn't either until we saw it:
What you can do to help
While stopping plastic pollution is a big job, there are quick and easy changes we personally make to stop the most common types of plastic pollution. Plastic bottles (and their caps!) are some of the most common items we find during our cleanups.
Switching to a reusable bottle (like this one) is not only easy, it's also an improvement over plastic bottles because they can keep drinks hot or cold much longer than plastic can.