Face masks among clean-up's collectibles


Despite storm warnings and COVID fears, the turnout and take for last Saturday’s Franklin County Coastal Cleanup was in keeping with past years.

“Most of the 18 sites had really good turnouts, comparable to other years, and have collected, according to the site coordinators, a total so far of over two tons of trash,” said Ada Long, coordinator of the annual event, co-sponsored by Apalachicola Riverkeeper, the Ocean Conservancy, and the Franklin County departments of parks and recreation, and solid waste and recycling.

“The numbers are lower than most previous years, but given the predictions of stormy weather as well as the exigencies of COVID-19, which required delay of several cleanups, we had a surprisingly successful day, I think,” she said. “Also, this cleanup was perfectly timed so that all that trash didn't get washed into the gulf and bay.”

Long said the site coordinators estimated that 209 volunteers collected 7,163 pounds of trash, including 274 bags of plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, and other such litter.

The haul included two chairs; two bicycle skeletons; metal pipe; 23 pieces of netting from roadside sodding; 27 items of clothing, 14 tarps and bedding; a car seat; tents; a mattress; a shop vacuum; a computer and two monitors; a lot of face masks; women’s underwear; a koozie that said “Recycle,”  a valid driver’s license from Tennessee; a ceramic sink and toilet; half of a dog kennel; a toilet seat; a car bumper; a trash grabber; a good pair of binoculars; and a potato.

“Perhaps the most disturbing items in that list were a lot of disposable face masks, which apparently are becoming a serious source of pollution in the oceans around the world - which is ironic since disposable face masks and hand sanitizer were provided at every cleanup site,” said Long. “The challenges presented by COVID 19 are seemingly endless and still often unpredictable.”

At Lanark Beach, where Kathy Swaggerty served as coordinator, those taking part with her were Anni Ross, Morgan Johanson, Amanda Yurich, Andrew Ingrassia, Ken Murphy, Olivia Wright and Andrew Baker.

“The Coastal Cleanup this year was comforting in that it was the same as previous years,” said Swaggerty. “I had some of the regulars and some newbies and one "accidental" participant.  He was just riding his bicycle around and got hooked in by another volunteer!

“All the volunteers seemed excited to be participating in an activity that does so much good for the environment,” she said. “ I had one crew that went out, returned with lots of trash, reformed a group with other volunteers, and go back out again!

“Overall the trash had less straws, cigarette butts,  bottles and food containers but lots of heavy construction materials.  I suspect it is the result of illegal dumping, a Franklin County cultural problem.  Some of the boards could be docks that are still coming apart as a result of storm damage but I doubt the electrical wire and vinyl siding just blew off.

“One of the crews reported seeing a mating pair of horseshoe crabs.  It was a "first" for several of them.  They planned to report it on the FWC website where they track it.  At the end of the event we were rewarded with a flock of shorebirds, including marbled godwits, feeding on the newly cleaned beach.  Perfect!”

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Face masks among clean-up's collectibles


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