MARCO ISLAND — The trash didn’t stand a chance. By nine a.m., Tigertail already had 51 volunteers registered and out cleaning up the beach, and more showing up, for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
“This is the big one,” said Susan LaGrotta, coordinating the effort for the Friends of Tigertail, the citizens’ support group dedicated to preserving the beach. Each September, the fall cleanup at Tigertail coordinates with the Ocean Conservancy as debris is not only picked up, but also quantified, from beaches and shorelines all over the world.
Tigertail saw almost as wide a variety of volunteer trash pickers as the many types of garbage found and removed. There were the regular couples, with their own gloves and their pre-planned routes. There was a group of youths from the local chapter of the NAACP, led by chapter president Harold Weeks. Nancy Richie, environmental specialist for the City of Marco, talked burrowing owls with the cleanup organizers before heading out with a bag.
A group of ladies from the Newcomers’ Club did their part. And a group of moms and tots from the Marco Lutheran Church’s Splash group took part, as well.
“We’re out here to help our kids learn,” said Faith Rattei of the Splash club. “We want the children to see their parents serving, giving back to the community.”
“We’ve opened up some new areas,” said LaGrotta. “With the concession stand closed for the month of September, a lot of trash has been showing up in the parking lots.” The Friends of Tigertail, she said, is talking to the county about getting more trash receptacles in the parking lots.
And maybe better protected ones; a marauding raccoon, she said, has been spotted climbing into one bin, tearing the bag inside to pieces, and spreading garbage with no more consideration than a human litterbug.
Mike Verrastro said the highlight, if you can call it that, of their search was a used diaper.
“That’s why you need the gloves,” said LaGrotta. Like the diapers, she said, alcohol containers and other nasty items are often hidden off the beach itself. “That’s where they hide it. People toss a lot of beer bottles and stuff into the dunes and the mangroves,” she said.
Since the items found in the September count are tabulated and reported to the Ocean Conservancy, each volunteer or group that goes out is given a tally sheet to record their finds.
Diapers have their place on the list, along with condoms, syringes, and tampons, in the “medical/personal hygiene” category. Larger items come under the “dumping activities” heading, including cars, appliances, 55-gallon drums, and tires, at least one of which was removed from Tigertail on Saturday.
Additional categories on the form include spaces for “entangled animals,” what caught them, and whether they were found dead or alive. Bags, balloons, and bottles come under “shoreline and recreational activities,” along with shotgun shells, straws and shoes. Cigarette butts, always the most numerous of all the items littered, have their own category, which also lists lighters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging and wrappers.
The uniform reporting format means that a statistical picture of trash activity, and trends, can be put together, spanning continents, oceans and years. Saturday’s cleanup marks the sixth year Tigertail has recorded and submitted data, said LaGrotta.
For more information on the Friends of Tigertail, call membership director Carle Talkowski, or go online to www.friendsoftigertail.com.