Bringing Reef Relief One Cigarette Butt at a Time
No buts about it, every single piece of microplastic litter picked up is a piece of microplastic litter that won’t end up polluting our oceans and harming marine ecosystems, particularly in threatened coral reefs.
So it was an incredibly awesome feeling to collect about 800 pounds of trash, including 3,500 cigarette butts, from Key West beaches and surrounding areas recently, together with our retail partner The Sole Man and local nonprofit Reef Relief. We also removed 2,500 pounds of (mostly plastic) trash left over from Hurricane Irma on a small outer key that’s only accessible by boat.
Volunteers received the perfect footwear for cleaning up beaches: KEEN sandals!
According to the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, cigarettes are often the number one littered item found on beaches, and their plastic filters are non-biodegradable. In addition, any remaining toxic chemicals in the cigarette, such as lead and arsenic, are released into the environment.
It’s not just about butts on the beach. City litter can make its way into street storm drains, which flow into the ocean. So some of us stenciled that message onto as many storm drains as we could (over 200!) to remind folks.
Meanwhile, at Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, which is a small key close to Islamorada, about 20 of us got on kayaks and SUPs supplied by Backcountry Cowboy to clear debris from mangroves. Florida State Park Rangers used their boats to take us to the key, and both boats were overflowing with over 2,500 pounds of trash on the return trip.
"The annual event with KEEN, The Sole Man, and Reef Relief is an excellent opportunity to bring the community of Key West together to raise some awareness of the importance of protecting our nearshore waters," says Mill McCleary, executive program director for Reef Relief. "Our goals to reduce the impact of single-use plastics and other debris that have negative effects on our ocean and coral reefs could not be accomplished without these partnerships. With KEEN's support we are able to bring dozens of locals out for a rewarding day of volunteerism that makes a huge difference for our island."
It definitely feels fantastic that we were able to clean up so much plastic.