Clean up efforts for Cayman’s Earth Day 2018 Saturday were not limited to local streets and beaches.
A group of volunteers with the group Plastic Free Cayman took to kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to hunt for trash in the canals around SafeHaven dock.
They extracted more than 400 pounds of waste from the mangroves and inlets around the area in about two hours.
“I couldn’t believe we managed to get that much,” said Claire Hughes, founder of the Plastic Free group. “I mean, I wasn’t surprised there was that much trash, just that we could recover it.”
The Plastic Free Cayman group has typically collected hundreds of pounds of trash in monthly cleanups at local beaches, but Saturday’s effort was a bit unusual in that participants carried what they collected back on their boats. The garbage was then packed into bags and collected for pickup by other volunteers.
All around Grand Cayman Saturday, the plastic trash bags could be seen piled up by the side of the roads, in Prospect, Newlands, George Town and along West Bay Road, as volunteers with various local groups helped out with the annual Earth Day effort.
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce got off to an early start, handing out trash bags and gloves to volunteers just after dawn Saturday for what is annually the largest volunteer driven event in the islands.
Chamber members also helped clean up underwater, with some of the local water sports operators hosting dive site cleanups.
The National Trust hosted cleanups on both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac beaches during Saturday’s events.
The reduction of plastic pollution across the Caribbean was the focus for Earth Day 2018, according to the region’s hotel and tourism association.
“Earth Day’s theme this year, ‘End Plastic Pollution,’ is especially relevant for the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association because preventing or removing plastic pollution remains a big challenge for many of our tourism enterprises and in fact, for many of our island destinations at large,” said association president Karolin Troubetzkoy. “We recently saw the ‘plasticberg’ of garbage that drifted into parts of our pristine Caribbean Sea, underscoring the plastic pollution that already spoils some of our beaches.
“It is even more urgent that we come together in a smart partnership with all sectors and communities to clean out the plastic pollution and ensure clean and pristine waters dominate the million square miles that comprise the Caribbean.”
The Plastic Free Cayman group was started after Ms. Hughes, a schoolteacher, found herself “shocked at the plastic pollution problem,” particularly in the Caribbean Sea – highlighted in the 2016 documentary “A Plastic Ocean.”
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 during an interview last year. “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.”