The Women’s Council of Realtors Sarasota organizes the cleanup, at which 150 pounds of litter was collected in one hour.
It only took an hour for volunteers to collect 150 pounds of garbage and 304 bottle caps at Ted Sperling Park on June 8 for World Oceans Day.
The Women’s Council of Realtors Sarasota organized the event. Each year, the group picks one organization to support. This year, they chose Mote Marine Lab & Aquarium.
Forty-five volunteers traveled from around the area to help clean up Lido beach. Rich and Betty Ritter live in Lakewood Ranch. “We’re big on Mote. It’s one of my favorite places,” Betty said. “You always see so much trash when you’re at the beach. It’s nice to be getting rid of it.”
Ted Sperling is a county-run park within the city and occupies 180 acres of South Lido Key. Volunteers were supplied with gloves, pickers, buckets and plastic bags. They scoured the beach, playground, trails and even under cars in the parking lot looking for garbage to bag.
Park naturalist Wendy Chipman's territory expands beyond Ted Sperling Park and covers the entire 300 acres of beach. She said the two types of debris they see regularly are cigarette butts and bottle caps.
The park installed 26 cigarette receptacles from the north to south end of Lido beach to combat the problem. A boy scout volunteers every two weeks to empty them. The cigarette butts are sent to TerraCycle, a recycling company that turns hard-to-recycle trash into a composite material. The final product is sold to manufacturers. Patio furniture and flooring are two examples of an array of products made from littered cigarette butts.
Chipman noted that people often think it takes hundreds of years for a cigarette butt to biodegrade. “It never biodegrades,” she said, “Recycling them is huge.”
Bottle caps are the other main source of litter, so much so that they gave Chipman an idea. She had the full-time beach attendant dedicate one hour per day for a month to collecting bottle caps from the parking lot. The result was astounding.
After 20 hours and one month’s time, 7,000 bottle caps were collected. In disbelief, Chipman wanted to do it again. Expecting and hoping the number would plummet, it did not. About 5,000 bottle caps per month are collected in the parking lot alone.
Brenda Canales, the volunteer coordinator for Sarasota county, thanked the volunteers. “The government values the volunteer hour at $29.95. You can see the impact, even for just one hour, a group this size makes.”
Ann Walborn spoke on behalf of Mote Marine and those who can’t speak for themselves: “You are also here helping turtles.”
Walborn said only one in 1,000 turtles will reach maturity and return to lay eggs 22 years later. A baby is the size of a 50-cent piece when born. Removing debris from the water and shoreline is essential to their well-being.
Bottles, cans, clothing and shoes were all bagged and weighed. A broken beach chair was added to the pile too. Brooke Mailloux said she picked up a lot of yellow Capri Sun straws.
This was the first beach cleanup organized by the Women’s Council, whose goal is to raise $20,000 for Mote Marine this year and to make the beach cleanup an annual event.
“I’m born and raised here, so the water and the beaches are really important to me,” 2022 Council President Julianna Burns said.
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