(CMR) Protect Our Future students were joined by 65 volunteers, mostly children and their families, on Saturday, April 17, for a community cleanup event at Safe Haven.
The student-led event was coordinated by the education and outreach team of Protect Our Future and was in partnership with both Plastic Free Cayman and Ocean Heroes Bootcamp.
Grade 12 students Genene Magnan and Isabela Watler were the main coordinators of the event, overseeing logistics. Grade 10 students Lili Aleria, Demae Lee, Lauren Colaiacovo, and Angelina Sargsayan ran the education booth to teach all the children and their families about the dangers of plastic pollution and alternatives to plastic consumer goods.
Each family was paired with a student from Protect Our Future in order to continue the education process throughout the event and to help the younger students with the cleanup.
“I was very excited to see so many younger kids at the beach cleanup. This event was designed to teach little kids about plastic pollution. Our new POF members did a great job teaching the kids and buddying with them throughout the cleanup. We are very hopeful that these collaborations will continue into the future,” Isabela Watler said.
Over 900 pounds of trash were removed. Half of the trash was marine debris washing up on our shores. While the other half was local litter produced from community members disposing of their waste in bushes and on the coast.
On the marine debris side, hundreds of plastic bottles, bottle caps, fishing lines, and polystyrene (Styrofoam) pieces were collected. In terms of the local litter, aside from hundreds of beer bottles and cans, surprisingly, 2 huge refrigerators, a toilet, a generator, many dirty diapers, and thousands of cigarette butts were removed from the area.
“This does highlight a dark side of our local litter problem. It became very clear to Protect Our Future students that Cayman's anti-litter law is certainly not enforced,” POF stated in a release.
Geneve Magnan stated, “The Safe Haven Protect Our Future beach cleanup yesterday was our most successful 100% youth-led beach cleanup to date! More than 105 bags were collected by volunteers of ages ranging from four to 60 plus.”
POF believes, “the waste collected highlights the local litter problem on the island, and although discouraging, is a reminder that there is still the need for public education on the topic of litter.”
The group noted that one of the additional goals of this beach cleanup was to forge connections with the youth, teaching younger children about plastic pollution in Cayman and how to instill real and tangible change.
Organizers said this goal was not only met but exceeded their expectations, as many younger children came with their parents to learn and help clean the beaches.
“As we anticipate the formation of our new government, we do hope that our future leaders seriously consider a ban on specific plastic items, stricter enforcement of our anti-litter law, and instituting a serious recycling and composting plan of action. If done properly, each of these initiatives could create local jobs for our community while improving our environment,” POF stated.
Persons are encouraged to join The Chamber of Commerce's Annual Earth Day cleanup on Saturday, April 24, from 7 am – 10 am.