Florida Keys Flooding with Microplastics

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Florida Keys Flooding with Microplastics

By Sarah Barrezueta

Most people don’t think of the Florida Keys flooding with microplastics. We typically think of beautiful crystal clear water. Manatees and dolphins swim among humans, as they bask in the warm sunshine. 

Where is this paradise? It’s called the Florida Keys. A tropical wonderland complete with white sand beaches and beautiful marine life who call it home. 

The Florida Keys provides endless entertainment no matter what you fancy. Whether you are an avid sailer, or prefer deep sea diving to experience one of a kind reefs, the Keys is the place to be. It is truly an ocean lovers dream.

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But what if this picturesque ocean dream became a nightmare?

Imagine, enjoying a perfect sunny day on your boat in the middle of a serene ocean. Suddenly, you are surrounded by plastic debris floating all around your boat. Then while swimming, you notice your favorite reef damaged.

This is exactly what happened to Greg Pickren and his family. 

Goodbye Plastic

It was a sun-filled beautiful day when Greg Pickren took his family out on their boat. But something wasn’t right. In the middle of this bright day, he noticed plastic floating in the water. Even his favorite reef was damaged and destroyed from pollution. It was heartbreaking.

Greg and his family couldn’t believe the amount of plastic and debris they saw in the ocean.  If his family was noticing plastic in the ocean, then there’s a good chance the locals and tourists were as well. Greg also thought about his neighborhood SEI Marine customers, and how they needed a clean ocean for their marine adventures. 

It was at that moment, Greg Pickren made a decision. In order for the ocean that he and his family loved to remain a paradise, he would have to make a change. 

Giving Back to Our Community and Ocean

SEI Marine Products is a business owned by Greg Pickren. It’s also part of the Pickren Community Outreach Program. The Pickren family started this program to put a focus on their donations and to give back to the communities its business serves. 

In the past, the Pickren Community Outreach Project has given to local charity services. But, after their experience on their boat, Greg Pickren knew that they had to focus on cleaning the ocean.

“We want our SEI customers to enjoy boating while they are out on the water with their families. One of the ways we can make their experience better is by donating to organizations that keep our waterways clean and beautiful.”

 – Greg Pickren, Owner of SEI Marine Products

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Ocean Blue Project For The Win

After talking to a few ocean focused nonprofits, the Pickren Community Outreach Program decided on Ocean Blue Project. They were impressed with Ocean Blue Project’s responsiveness, strong reputation, and mission to clean the ocean. Plus, Ocean Blue Project was already organizing Ocean cleanups in the Florida Keys! 

The Pickren Family Community Outreach Program realized they could help fund beach clean-ups in the exact area they wanted to focus on. It was a perfect match!

This was the winning answer for Greg Pickren and his family. Real change his customers could see and experience.

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Ocean in Trouble

Seeing plastic in the ocean is one thing. Knowing the damage it causes to the entire ocean’s ecosystem is another. With plastic pollution growing, scientists have been keeping a close eye on the plastic waste entering our oceans. And the numbers are astounding. 

In 2015 a group of researchers from the University of Georgia got together to estimate the number of plastic waste entering the ocean. The researchers discovered that 192 countries created about 275 million metric tons of plastic waste. And this was only in 2010. Of those 275 million metric tons, between 4.7 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic ended up in the ocean. 

In recent years, US policies have worked to limit and ban single-use plastics like straws and plastic bags to help cut down on pollution.

The NCSL reports that in 2014 California passed a ban on single-use plastic bags at retail stores. The same bill made customers pay a 10-cent fee to get a bag with their sale. 

Since then, many states have followed California’s lead in banning single-use plastic. 

This is a great start but more needs to be done. Especially with single-use plastics. 

Single-use plastic is not recyclable and never goes away. The plastic gets smaller and smaller, and eventually turns into microplastic. Are microplastics bad for the environment? In short, yes.

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A Tidy Beach Creates a Healthy Ocean

The situation with plastic in the ocean is dire. If nothing changes, it’s estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Plastics cause giant ocean garbage patches, chemical pollutants, and kill our ocean’s ecosystem.

Conservation.org states the Great Pacific Garbage Patch includes an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash. The garbage patch area is twice the size of Texas! 

These numbers keep growing and marine life keeps dying… but you’re still on time to help. 

So what can you do? If you want to help tackle all this plastic pollution from our oceans, a beach cleanup is the best place to start. Beach cleanups are one of the easiest ways to get plastic out of the ocean. 

By picking up all the plastic while it’s on the beach, you’re helping in keeping it from going back in the ocean. This might seem like a small task, but your efforts will stop plastic from getting stuck at an ocean garbage patch or killing marine life. It will even help prevent plastic from ending up at the bottom of the ocean— where it can be nearly impossible to retrieve. 

This is why beach cleanups and keeping plastic out of the ocean is crucial. Because, less plastic in the ocean means a healthier marine life and ocean ecosystem. 

How to Create a Beach Cleanup 

Can you host your own beach cleanup? Yes. And Ocean Blue Project is here to help you! We work with you and help you host a beach cleanup in your community. This includes obtaining the permits needed, and supporting you so that every step is a success. 

The first step to creating a Beach Cleanup is to fill out this form. Once you submit your form, pick a day and time for your cleanup and start spreading the news!

Tips from the Pros

Safety doesn’t take a day off. Remember to wear gloves and bring sunscreen to your beach cleanup. We want you to leave with fond memories, not a sunburn.

Before heading out to your local beach cleanup, remember to be mindful of what you bring. Instead of using plastic bags to collect the debris, use burlaps or reusable buckets. Bring water in your reusable bottle and bring snacks in washable containers from home to avoid plastic wrappers. These are also great habits to start applying in your everyday life.

Prize-Winning Plastic

After you’ve finished collecting plastic debris, everything is sorted into categories. The first category is anything recyclable. The second category is used for educational ocean debris kits sent to schools. These kits help reuse the leftover debris and microplastics from the cleanup. 

To reach the goal of removing 1 million pounds of plastic by 2025, each volunteer weighs their debris. The Beach Cleanup Crew Member with the greatest weight of debris and the most unique debris gets a prize!

Microplastics are everywhere—  in the ocean and in our food. There is a harmful cycle of these microplastics and their consumption among marine life. For example, fish mistake microplastics for food. This not only causes damage to fish eating microplastics, but to humans and other marine life that eat those fish.

Luckily, companies like Ocean Blue Project and SEI Marine are helping to put a stop to that cycle through beach cleanups. By picking up plastic on our beaches, you help in putting a stop to plastic debris polluting our oceans. Create a Ocean Cleanup Today!

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A New Habit Can Save Our Oceans

There are small everyday changes you can do to help keep our oceans clean and plastic-free. Habits such as replacing plastic water bottles to reusable ones, or picking up pieces of plastic and trash in our ocean and on our beaches. 

These small actions create big and positive results.

You have the power to create the change you want to see. But you have to be courageous enough to take the first step. 

One of the first and most impactful steps you can take is volunteering or organizing a beach cleanup. If you would like to organize a beach cleanup just fill out this form

And don’t worry, Ocean Blue Project takes the guesswork out of organizing it! We can help you create a cleanup within your community or company. Or find one that is happening at a beach, river, or waterway near you! You bring the enthusiasm and we will give you the tools you need to succeed. 

You can be the hero that our ocean needs. With every effort you make, we move towards a cleaner, healthier ocean. 

Because we have to do everything we can to save our one world ocean and the Florida Keys flooding with microplastics.

Author Bio: Sarah Barrezueta is a writer committed to creating positive change in her community and the world. When she is not working, Sarah loves spending time with her husband, chasing her curious toddler,  and cuddling her rescue dog- who looks surprisingly like Richard Dreyfuss.