Keeping the sand ‘squeaky clean’: Destin’s Earth Day beach clean up

Earth Day Beach Clean-up 2014

Everyone from families and businesses participate in the beach cleanup, as these volunteers from Destin’s Hard Rock Café recently helped out.

Special to The Log
Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 05:26 PM.

“Leave footprints – not stuff” is the theme of this year’s Earth Day beach cleanup day. The Okaloosa County Environmental Council and sponsor organization Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department invite volunteers of all ages to participate.

“The number one thing that we pick up is cigarette butts,” said Nancy Hussong, research and development manager for the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department. She explained that this year, the OCEC has teamed up with Terracycle to incorporate a new recycling program into the Earth Day efforts.

 “This is the first time ever that we’ve found a program that recycles cigarettes,” Hussong said. “It’s the number one worldwide littering problem with 4.5 trillion discarded across the world throughout the year, and it takes five to 12 years for them to disintegrate.”

Hussong told The Log that through the Terracycle program, points for the amount of cigarettes collected can be redeemed towards a cash donation to a charity or school of their choosing.

Organized beach clean-ups are scheduled twice a year, in the spring and fall, and Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department regularly maintains the beaches with beach combing machines. Coastal Management Coordinator, Jim Trifilio told The Log that although the machines pick up most of the beach litter, hand cleaning helps keep hard to reach areas around the dunes and bridges clean.

 “We focus on the high traffic areas, not every inch of the beach,” he said. “The area where the people are doing it by hand can get better results, especially with the smaller things.”

Volunteers for the OCEC beach clean ups have reached more than 30,000 since the program’s inception in 1988, and a calculated 114,000 pounds of trash has been removed from the Emerald Coast’s shores.

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