This spring break, the University of Florida's Alpha Zeta chapter had the most amazing experience of executing a mission trip in the beautiful Florida Keys. Throughout the week we cleaned public beaches such as Boca Chica, private government islands such as Women's Cove, and public park areas such as Sugarloaf Key. As much fun as we had on this trip (soaking up the sun, getting to know our brothers, and enjoying the Key West atmosphere) we also made a difference. Over our 3 days of environmental clean ups, we collected more than a ton of marine debris, everything from minuscule pieces of plastic, to truck tires and water tanks. On our first day we were educated at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary about the importance of cleaning up marine debris. We were astounded to learn that today, due to pollution, there is more (by mass) microscopic pieces of plastic in the ocean than zooplankton. This is obviously an issue for organisms that consume zooplankton, often mistaken them for small pieces of plastic. Plastic also alters hormones in animals that ingest it. In addition, plastic has become a huge chocking and entanglement hazard for all marine animals, causing deformations (loss of limbs) and even death. Because of the harmful affects of plastic, and due to the fact that it literally will never decompose, we focused our clean up on plastic. We ignored items such as wood and decomposable items because they are biodegradable and would eventually assimilate into the environment. Through our mission trip, we hope to educate people about the harmful affects of marine debris and ways to limit its affects.
Way to limit marine debris:
- use refillable water bottles
- use paper/reusable grocery bags instead of plastics
- proper disposal of trash
- cutting entanglement items into smaller segments
- educating others on the harmful affects of marine debris
Originally posted by Nicolette M. Stelter