Sanibel Island hosted 150 volunteers on Sept. 21 for the Ocean Conservancy's 27th Annual Coastal Cleanup.
The international event draws as many as 600,000 people to clean millions of pounds of coastal trash per year. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, partnering with Keep Lee County Beautiful and Bailey's General Store, directed the volunteers to clear trash off local beaches.
"It was a great turnout," said Dee Serage-Century from SCCF. "Every beach access on Sanibel, Captiva, and some bay access areas were covered and cleaned."
The number one thing most volunteers found were cigarette butts followed by pieces of plastic. One volunteer found a roll of teflon tape, which could take hundreds of years to biodegrade naturally. Necklaces and small pieces of jewelry were also found in the grasses thanks to the high tide, items that could easily be ingested by sea turtles or local birds.
Volunteers from Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands found a live cane toad, the invasive species recently discovered on the island, and captured it to bring to SCCF.
Serage-Century said the good news is that less garbage is picked up each year.
"What has happened over time, on Sanibel, because we clean all the time and the city is out there with their vehicles is that the size of the garbage seems to be getting smaller," she said. "It used to be that it came in such volume we had a dumpster, and as the years have gone along the weight of it has reduced."
Those who signed up to volunteer were concerned citizens, students, businesses, and environmentalists. Serage-Century said half of the 150 volunteers pre-registered and the others showed up on Sept. 21.
Students from The Canterbury School and Lexington Middle also helped in the effort, she said, and all of the volunteers had lunch and snacks at the Nature Center afterwards, provided by Bailey's General Store and Barefoot Wines.
Each volunteer also received a Coastal Cleanup Data Card to record how much trash they picked up. Those cards are forwarded to the Ocean Conservancy and included in the worldwide cleanup figures.