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As summer comes to an end, residents of Cedar Key, along with volunteers around the world, are preparing for the world's largest annual cleanup of beaches and waterways – the International Coastal CleanupTM (ICC), coordinated by The Ocean Conservancy.
This Saturday, Sept. 19 an estimated one million volunteers will comb beaches, lake shores, river banks, and even underwater sites in at least 74 countries and 54 U.S. states and territories.
“People collect trash – from anywhere water meets land – and they bring it to the collection point,” said Cedar Key Mayor Sue Colson. “Our collection point is the Cedar Key Marina.”
The objective will be to remove and catalogue millions of pounds and pieces of debris discarded in the world's waterways and present hard data on pollution sources worldwide.
The Ocean Conservancy produces and distributes data cards and data guides to be used by all Cleanup volunteers.
After the Cleanup, The Ocean Conservancy compiles the information collected by volunteers and reports results that are used by policy makers and environmental groups to pursue programs to protect our marine world.
This year’s effort in Cedar Key is being spearheaded by the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association, City of Cedar Key Marina, Friends of Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges, Cedar Key Women’s Club, Florida’s Nature Coast Conservancy, UF/IFAS Shellfish Extension Program, Tidewater Tours, Island Hopper, and Kayak Cedar Keys.
Cleanup of the Cedar Key shoreline and outlying islands will occur from 8 a.m. until noon.
Volunteers are to sign-in and pick-up the supplied trash bags at the Cedar Key Marina.
Boat transportation provided by Tidewater Tours, Island Hopper, and FAVOR to the offshore keys is available to volunteers on a first come, first serve basis.
“Everybody has their own areas of interest, their own pet peeves of where they think needs to be cleaned up,” Colson said. “This is the time to come out and clean it up.”
Colson encourages people to scope out where they plan to clean before hand, so no time is wasted Saturday morning. “And we want everyone to come back by noon,” she said. “This is about more than just cleaning up, it’s about assessing where we are.”
From Noon to 2 p.m. all collected garbage will be sorted and documented on Ocean Conservancy data cards.
The cards list out individual trash items, such as plastic bags, straws, six-pack holders, clothing, food wrappers, rope, fishing line, nets, appliances, building materials, and diapers to name a few.
Last year, glass bottles were the most collected item in Cedar Key. Plastic has also been a heavily littered item in the past.
“I’m anxious to see if the recycling has reduced the plastics,” Colson said. “This (Cleanup) is a part of the green initiative that we started here a long time ago.”
Hot dogs and lemonade will be provided to all volunteers. Cold water will also be supplied, but bring your own bottle to fill as we do not want to contribute hundreds of plastic bottles to the local landfill.
In conjunction with Coastal Cleanup, the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association is initiating a cleanup effort targeting cover netting. This plastic netting is used for predator protection of the clam crops. During storm events, cover netting can become dislodged and tidal currents can carry it away from the lease areas. During the week of Sept. 20-26, waste bins will be located at the Shell Pile and City Marina for clammers, boaters, or anyone to deposit recovered cover netting.
Those interested in joining this year's ICC in Cedar Key should contact Sue Colson at (352) 543-6648, or The Ocean Conservancy at (800) 262-FLOR.