A Florida Beach Reopened – People Left It Trashed

Cocoa Beach, Florida May 11     Photo: Daily Mail

The people who flocked to Cocoa Beach in Florida last weekend left behind 13,000 pounds of litter, prompting the police to threaten a crackdown.  Local officials believe that as social distancing and stay in place orders are loosened in parts of the state, there has been an influx of day-trippers who show up and leave their trash behind.  Local officials will be stepping up patrols and fines as a result.  The volunteer organization that arranges trash pickups at the beach said that the recent littering is more than they had experienced before the virus lockdown.

Why This Matters:  Plastic pollution in the ocean is a problem that will long outlast COVID-19.  Ocean health depends upon vigilance by coastal communities to keep trash — particularly plastic — out of the water.  But an increase in household trash is also a “symptom” of the impact coronavirus is having on communities more generally.  Municipalities are expecting residential garbage to increase by as much as 30%.  Because of that increase, many communities across the country are “pausing” curbside recycling pickup according to the Solid Waste Association of America. Yet another reason for the next stimulus bill to help local governments manage the increased load.

Cocoa Beach Bums

“People need to understand if they leave trash on the ground a bird, fish or sea turtle could be killed by it. It’s not just a blight issue it’s an environmental issue all around,” said the local NGO that organizes volunteers to do beach cleanups at Cocoa Beach.  Last weekend they removed nearly 300 bags of trash — prior to the beach closures, they would ordinarily remove about 10 bags in a weekend.  Police Chief Scott Rosenfeld in a statement, “Our community works very hard to be stewards of environmental sustainability. If I need to reallocate critical resources during our peak season to combat litterers, we are no longer asking our visitors to comply with our litter laws, we expect it, and there will be consequences for offenders.”

Spring Cleaning Should Wait Until Summer

The increase in residential trash is clearly a result of more people staying home and more items being delivered to homes because people have been unable to shop in retail stores.  But another factor has been a rash of spring cleaning happening also due to people being at home with less to do, according to CNN Business.  Many municipalities are asking people to refrain from disposing of “bulk” items and also asking that people tie up their garbage bags with wipes and tissues in order to keep sanitation workers safe from virus contamination.  Another huge issue is the disposal of plastic gloves and pandemic protection items that end up on the streets in sewers where it can easily end up in the ocean.

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