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Date of Issue: October 11, 2007

Volunteers enlist in coastal cleanup

Girl Scout Troop 574 reports for duty in Bradenton Beach, Keep Manatee Beautiful volunteer Bud Bates signs the girls up for cleanup duty on the beach.
Anthony Scott of King Middle School finds a bottle in the bushes near the entrance to Holmes Beach.

“Be the solution to pollution,” Paul Toomey said, coaching his kids as they collected trash on the beach in Anna Maria.

Toomey gets annoyed with the “lazy people” who think dropping trash in a trash can is too much trouble.

His wife, Rachel, gets annoyed with the “anti-establishment” people who think litter laws infringe upon their rights.

The two Toomey kids, Michela and Mitch, get annoyed with the “rude people” who leave their litter for someone else to pick up.

But on Saturday, the Toomey family set aside their annoyances and pitched in to clean up a stretch of shoreline in Anna Maria.

“I love this place,” said Rachel Naylor-Toomey. “So I take care of it. I think all of us should take responsibility for protecting it.”

Oct. 6 was serve and protect day in Manatee County, with volunteers enlisting in Keep Manatee Beautiful’s 22nd annual Coastal Cleanup effort. The local campaign is part of a much larger effort to collect litter and debris that is sponsored nationwide by the Ocean Conservancy.

At the local level, KMB worked with Adopt-A-Highway, Road and Shore groups, businesses and municipalities to coordinate the cleanup, especially along the Manatee River, the Palma Sola Causeway, on Anna Maria Island and at the FISH Preserve in Cortez.

Along Manatee Avenue near the entrance to Holmes Beach, members of the King Middle School Environmental Club and other volunteers bagged litter from under a thick tangle of mangroves. The volunteers collected beer bottles and soda cans, syringes and pill vials, wet blankets and plastic grocery bags.

“I think it is discouraging,” said Patty Holloway, a volunteer with a University of South Florida service club.

Holloway helped clean up on Anna Maria Island with DianaJackson, who said the USF volunteers join in several cleanups each year. “We’re doing our share for the community,” she said.

On Cortez and Coquina beaches, as well as at Leffis Key in Bradenton Beach, volunteers hauled away hefty bags of litter —beer bottles, cigarette butts, sandwich wrappers, dirty diapers and an assortment of drug paraphernalia.

“People drop trash all over the place,” said Valerie Hale, 6, a volunteer with Girl Scout Troop 574. “But this is kind of fun. I got a lot of seashells, too.”

At a table near the BeachHouse Restaurant, Keep Manatee Beautiful volunteer Bud Bates checked in volunteers and dispatched them to points north and south on the beach.

Bates, who works for Bradenton Beach’s public works department, has been involved in numerous cleanups. “Believe it or not,” he said, “about two years ago I had a kitchen sink pulled off the beach.”

Organizers estimated that about 1,000 volunteers participated in the cleanup countywide, removing as much as 17,000 pounds of debris and trash. Volunteers cleared thousands of pounds of litter from Anna Maria and Perico islands, as well as the Palma Sola Causeway.

“I wouldn’t guess there was so much garbage out here,” said Kathy Holcomb, arriving to the causeway as the cleanup winded down for a family fun day. “Next year, we’ll get here earlier. It’s great that people do this, but it’s a shame that it’s necessary.”


Litter’s life span

How long will it take a banana peel by the side of a road to decompose? About two to five weeks.

How long for a glass bottle? About a million years.

The decomposition rate for other items:

  • Plastic bag: 10-20 years.
  • Leather: Up to 50 years.
  • Aluminum can: 200-500 years.
  • Plastic six-pack ring: 450 years.
  • Rope: 3-14 months.
  • Newspaper: 3-6 months.
  • Plastic bottle: 100 years.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Keep America Beautiful, Ocean Conservancy