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International Coastal Clean Up Comes To St Johns County Beaches

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The Altman family and the Boy Scouts from Pack #345

Volunteers Join In For Beach Clean Up

The day started overcast but that did not hold anyone back from assisting with the International Coastal Clean Up Day sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy and St Johns County Solid Waste Department.

Businesses, cubs and the individual beach lover came out to help clean our beaches making it not only safe for visitors to the beach but marine life as well. “We have been doing this for 20 years.” said Chris Benjamin, St Johns County Solid Waste Department. “ We do it two times a year. The Saturday after Earth Day to welcome in the Sea Turtle as well as in conjunction with the International Coastal Clean Up at the end of Sea Turtle season.” Benjamin explained.

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Chuck Payne, Jean Buehner and Chris Benjamin assist with the coastal cleanup.

Pollution and trash in our ocean is a serious problem that affects the health of people, wildlife and the economy throughout the world. International Coastal Clean Up Day is the world’s largest volunteer effort to clean our ocean and waterways.

Sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, groups around the world  picked up trash, sorted and counted it and the finding were sent to the Ocean Conservancy for further studies. “St Johns County has been quantifying the trash for years.” said Benjamin. “Students at Nease High School have been instrumental with focusing on beach pollution. Cleaning beaches from Jacksonville to Marineland the students use counting stations to quantify the trash collected.” said Benjamin.

Keepers of the Coast main focus is the counting of cigarette butts collected on the beach. Information from the Third International Conference on Marine Debris stated that cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not degrade quickly and can persist in the environment for many, many years. Cigarettes are often mistaken for food by marine animals causing great harm. With volunteers, Keepers also build, decorate and install cigarette butt disposal receptacles along St Johns County beaches hoping to keep ciggs off our beaches.

A large number of groups from throughout St Johns County came to together Saturday. Jean Buehner, a visitor from Kentucky joined in with the locals to help keep our beaches clean. Chuck Payne a local resident was there with trash bag in hand. “I don’t like dirty beaches.” he said. “Nobody likes a dirty beach.” he continued as he bend down to pick up the trash. The young members from Boy Scout Pac #345 were also involved. Seven year old Alex and nine year old Carter Altman, students from RB Hunt were dressed in their scout uniforms ready to do their duty. Mom, Ashley Altman and three year old Gracie joined in to help the boys.

As the volunteers were scattered along the beach at the St Johns County Pier Park other SJC citizens were stationed along beaches in St Johns County. The Boy Scouts were also picking up trash at Micklers Landing, thirty students from the environmental class at Gamble Rogers focused their efforts on the Butler Park East area and Coastal Reality had a 16 member team cleaning the beaches all along St Johns County.

When asked why cleaning the beaches was important, three year old Gracie Altman spoke up “So we don’t kill the animals.” she exclaimed. The stranding of a whale on Crescent Beach a few weeks ago was proof of the effect pollution has on marine life. The whale was found suffering with trash in it’s stomach. It really hit home!  It is up to us to keep our oceans and waterways clean to protect the marine and wildlife that we all love and cherish so much.

FYI-To help keep hazardous waste out of our waterways the St Johns County Waste Management will hold a Hazardous waste clean up later this year.