Trash to Treasures

At the beginning of this year, we began carefully sorting all of the pollution removed from the beach during our cleanup events so that we could track trends in the trash over time.

As of today, we have sorted 24 cleanups in 2017.  Below is a glimpse at what we are finding:

  • Over 41,000 individual items have been removed
  • 73% of the garbage is plastic
  • An average of 21 pieces of plastic are removed for every minute of cleaning the beach
  • We have removed 521 plastic bottles and 5,032 plastic bottle caps

Our most important goal is gaining knowledge so that we can prevent the garbage from being in the ocean in the first place; however, we are also learning more about steps we can take to keep trash out of landfills in the meantime.

This week, we signed up to take part in TerraCycle’s Beach Plastic Cleanup Program.  TerraCycle, founded in 2001, operates in 21 countries to make typically non-recyclable waste recyclable.  They launched their Beach Plastic Cleanup Program in collaboration with Procter & Gamble earlier this year and have already collected more than 25,000 lbs. of waste from European beaches.

Now, after we have sorted our debris, we can box up the rigid plastics and send them to TerraCycle where they will be melted down into pellets and repurposed into Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles.

On campus, we have also eliminated all single-use plastic beverage bottles!  Earth Day marked the first day of Boxed Water sales in our Tortuga Café and Gift Store.  The recyclable cardboard cartons are made using paper harvested from a well-managed forest where new trees are continuously planted.  Boxed Water, an environmentally conscious company, donates 1% of their total annual revenue to the National Forest Foundation’s reforestation efforts.  The boxes still include a plastic cap so we are employing TerraCycle once again to repurpose the caps back into new plastic materials.

Together, these initiatives give us the ability to both minimize our need for plastics and put thousands of pieces of plastic back into the production circle this year, reducing the demand to manufacture more.  The plastic pollution problem is not going to be an easy one to solve but we are grateful for companies that are working to make positive changes that will ultimately decrease the amount of garbage in the ocean.

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