Highlighting a growing awareness that is spreading across the Cayman Islands, environmental campaigners Plastic Free Cayman recently teamed up with people on Cayman Brac, clearing an incredible 1.800 pounds of plastic from important bird and turtle beach nesting sites on the Sister Island. This was the first time they had held such an event on Cayman Brac.
The clean-up event took place on 6th and 7th October and was sponsored by the anti-pollution think tank Parley for the Oceans as well as Plastic Free Cayman. Working as a team with the people of Cayman Brac, the volunteers focused on cleaning up sea turtle and brown booby bird nesting sites. As a result, more than 1,800 pounds of trash was removed from the south side of the Island, just across from Bat Cave.
Plastic Free Cayman, spearheaded by Claire Hughes, Bill LaMonte and Stef McDermot, explained who gave the most support to this vital environmental effort.
“The biggest supporters of the event were the students of Cayman Brac. Brownie troops, cadets, athletes and soon-to-be environmentalists helped collect, weigh, and discard nearly a ton of beach trash,” they said. “They showed dedication and true commitment to the cause. It was also an event that offered many educational moments.”
The group said that there were also hardcore volunteers from Grand Cayman, like Viktoria Toth and Jim McIntyre, who flew out to support the cause, giving many hours of community service.
Bonnie Scott, Richard Moss and Kathleen Bodden-Harris were key in organising the event, providing water and snacks, securing accommodations, and unifying various groups of people to commit to the cause.
“The event was a remarkable showing of community outreach and support,” they said.
Cayman’s own Plastic Ocean
While the event was positive in that it brought together the community for a worthy common cause, it also served to highlight the devastating impact plastic waste has on Cayman’s beautiful environment and endangered species, the group said.
“Plastic bottles were the most common items found. However, the most shocking aspect was the bits of styrofoam and pieces of microplastics embedded in the seaweed and sand. Removing these toxic microplastics is like extracting a cup of glitter from a head of hair. It's nearly impossible,” they advised. “The most frightening scenes where those areas that had small tidal pools filled completely with plastic bits, giving real context to a ‘Plastic Ocean!’”
The rubbish cleared up was not only as a result of locally discarded plastic, as the group pointed out they believed that a fair amount of the plastic concerned came from neighbouring countries such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic, suggesting that clearing up the plastic debris was really only a very short-term solution to a mounting problem. An important next step, Plastic Free Cayman said, is to hold companies that produce this material more accountable.
The success of the event drew international attention from important environmental organisations like Parley for the Oceans and The Captain Planet Foundation. Plastic Free Cayman's own Youth Ambassador, Stef McDermot, was able to return to her Brac roots, connect with the students there, and continue advocating against plastic pollution.
Plastic Free Cayman said the success of this visit had also solidified a growing partnership between Plastic Free Cayman and Cayman Brac, as Ms. Cassandra MacDowell will continue to unify the various outreach groups of the Brac as Plastic Free Cayman's Youth Ambassador of Cayman Brac.
“Plastic pollution continues to plague our oceans, beaches and food. What we choose to consume does matter. If you don't believe it, fly to the Brac, and walk the beach. We guaranty you will think differently,” they confirm.
Visit Plastic Free Cayman’s Facebook page @plasticfreecayman for more information on how you can get involved in keeping Cayman plastic free.