Volunteers cleared more than 1,100 pounds of trash from Beach Bay beach in Bodden Town on Sunday as part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness in Cayman about the environmental dangers of plastic products.

The cleanup was a combined effort of Red Sail Sports and a new nonprofit calling itself Plastic-Free Cayman, which applied to be formed earlier this year.

The group is the brainchild of local physical education teacher Claire Hughes, who found herself “shocked at the plastic pollution problem,” particularly in the Caribbean Sea – highlighted in the 2016 documentary “A Plastic Ocean.”

Several dozen volunteers showed up for Sunday’s effort in Beach Bay, which was the second such beach cleanup the group has held. The first one in East End’s Collier’s Beach last month picked up about 488 pounds of trash.

Ms. Hughes said she was happy with the result of both beach cleanups and said the group plans monthly events around Grand Cayman, with the next one scheduled for West Bay’s Barkers beach in early November. Generally, the cleanups are held the first weekend of every month on either Saturday or Sunday.

“We have an Earth Day cleanup once a year, but we don’t have anything really regularly,” Ms. Hughes said, acknowledging that the monthly beach-combing activities will not, by themselves, solve the trash pollution problem in Cayman.

Volunteers sort through the trash collected during the beach cleanup.

“You can [do] beach cleans every week, but unless you start reducing plastic pollution you’re going to have major problems,” she said.

Plastic bag petition

Plastic-Free Cayman sent a 2,000 signature petition to government ministers this week, asking them to enact a ban on “single use” plastic bags in the islands.

Ms. Hughes said single-use plastics, such as straws, bags, plastic bottles and plastic cups, are the “big four” when it comes to ocean pollution, and notes that much of the refuse ending up on Cayman’s shores doesn’t necessarily come from here.

“We’ve been able to track a lot of stuff back to Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” she said. “Residents on these islands sometimes don’t have anywhere to dump their trash, so they just throw it into the sea.

“We’re addicted to it [plastic] really. It’s become so convenient for us that we don’t think twice about it. Fifty years ago, we didn’t have these things.”

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