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Date of Issue: October 08, 2008

Volunteers clean up shores, preserves

Hundreds of people spent Saturday morning on Anna Maria Island beaches — not sunning themselves but scouring the sandy shore for trash.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Joe Vona of Bradenton and formerly Anna Maria.

Vona was paired with Caroline Pepka, also a former Islander, and helped collect trash on the Gulf of Mexico beach in Anna Maria Oct. 4.

“I was just saying, we’ve been doing this for 16 years,” Vona said.

He held a garbage bag and a clipboard where he made notes about the litter picked up as he and Pepka walked the beach.

“They don’t give us enough room,” Vona said, referring to his sheet and observing that in less than 15 minutes they had collected about 130 cigarette butts.

Pepka and Vona were among the hundreds of volunteers who turned out Oct. 4 for the annual Coastal Cleanup in Manatee County.

Keep Manatee Beautiful organized the local effort that put work crews on the beaches of Anna Maria Island and in preserves and parks throughout the county. Volunteers also removed trash and debris from along roads.

Volunteers registered at various locations in the area — Anna Maria City Hall, Birdie Tebbetts Field in Holmes Beach, the Palma Sola Causeway in Bradenton, the FISH Preserve in Cortez and Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

From the registration tables, volunteers headed out wearing surgical gloves, packed with bottled water and armed with garbage bags to pick up plastic bags, deflated balloons, fishing line, fishing nets, rope, six-pack holders, syringes, cigarette butts and aluminum cans, among other trash.

The local campaign, held as part of the 23rd annual International Coastal Cleanup sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, promotes beautification and also the protection of the wildlife and habitat, because litter on land or in the water can be deadly to animals and sealife.

Ingested trash can choke an animal or poison it with toxins. Once eaten, indigestible trash gives animals a false sense of fullness. They stop eating and slowly starve to death.

Sea turtles, for instance, mistake plastic bags and balloons for jellyfish and die when the plastic chokes them or clogs their digestive systems. And scientists recently found a sperm whale suffering from 440 pounds of fishing gear in its stomach.

KMB officials expected to provide tallies of trash collected in the Coastal Cleanup later this week.

Last year’s effort removed about 19,000 pounds of litter and debris from Manatee County.

At a worldwide level, 378,000 volunteers in 76 nations cleaned up 33,000 miles and removed about 6 million pounds of trash, according to KMB executive director Ingrid McClellan.


Clean living

To help reduce the amount of trash in the Gulf of Mexico and other bodies of water:

  • Use reusable cloth bags for groceries and shopping instead of disposable plastic bags.
  • Use reusable beverage containers.
  • Bring reusable or biodegradable food packaging to work or on day trips rather than using Styrofoam or plastic containers.
  • Avoid one-time-use or disposable items.
  • Avoid products with excess packaging.
  • Choose items made from recycled products.

Source: The Ocean Conservancy