By Christopher Tobutt
Hurricane Delta may have passed us by but the rough seas brought up lots of trash and debris onto Cayman’s beaches. Volunteers from Plastic Free Cayman didn’t waste any time – they got together for two big beach cleanups, one at Old Man Bay in North Side on Saturday 10 October, and another one on Sunday 11th at Pease Bay in Bodden Town.
30 volunteers came to Old Man Bay, and between them they picked up almost 800 pounds of trash, which works out to 26 pounds per person. Francella Martin, who organized the Old Man Bay clean-up said, “We had a great turnout and a successful cleanup of old man bay. We are so grateful to everyone who came out to help, and look forward to the continued support of the community as we plan our future events.”
Its hard work – picking up all that trash, especially when the sun gets up and it starts to get hot. But it’s really important work too, because scientists are now realizing that plastic floating in the sea is the number one killer of all kinds of marine life. It takes many years for plastic items to decompose, and so plastics keep building up in the world’s oceans. Plastic can enter the ocean as large, identifiable items or as micro-plastics – tiny plastic fragments. Both kinds are dangerous to marine wildlife. Turtles will easily mistake a floating plastic bag for a jellyfish – their favorite snack. But once the turtle eats it, it will block up its digestive tract, leading to a slow death from starvation. When plastics start to disintegrate, tiny juvenile can fish eat micro-plastic particles, also causing death, and jeopardizing the next generation of fishes.
At Pease Bay, the very next morning, 11 volunteers picked up more than 300 pounds of trash washed up by Hurricane Delta. It was a great morning’s work. But members of Plastic Free Cayman are pushing for change. Claire Hughes said, “As plastic from other countries continues to wash up, we have to address our own policies and laws and set a better example to the rest of the Caribbean. We could make use of the plastic we collect and with the right investment, it could be shredded and used in construction blocks and slats. There are solutions out there, we just have to be willing to try them.”
The answer also lies in everyone doing their part to reduce their use of plastic items with reusable straws and shopping bags, too. Meanwhile, Plastic Free Cayman continues their campaign to ensure that the Cayman Islands will lead the region in finding innovative ways to remove the threat of plastics, and their next clean-up is scheduled for November 8th at Consuelo’s Beach in South Sound for the Pirates’ Week Community Cleanup.