On Saturday, September 16, 2023, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Tourism, Saltwater Restaurants and many community partners hosted their annual International Coastal Cleanup to remove trash and debris from local beaches.
Nearly 500 volunteers from the community came out between 8-10AM to participate across six beach locations, including The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, The Crab Trap/James Lee Park, The Surf Hut, Norriego Point, Clement Taylor Park, and Henderson Beach State Park.
Working together, volunteers collected and removed around 700 pounds of trash and over 5,000 cigarette butts. While this is an increase from the Earth Day Cleanup earlier this year (3,000 cigarette butts), last year’s International Coastal Cleanup saw the removal of 1,000 pounds of garbage and over 8,000 cigarette butts.
“It was amazing to have such high participation for another beach cleanup,” said Jessica Valek, Coastal Resource Coordinator at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Tourism. “We saw many new faces as well as those who have been participating for years! The turnout this year shows that it is important to our community that we keep our beaches clean for our locals, visitors, wildlife, and future generations.”
- She went on to say, “Every year these cleanups gather more participation and more awareness. Local environmental groups and organizations set up outreach tables at each location to educate the volunteers on how they can be environmental stewards and continue to help our environment every single day, protect our wildlife, and prevent trash from reaching our waterways and beaches.”
Marine debris poses a major threat to local wildlife like birds and sea turtles that nest on our beaches. Annual cleanups like this are crucial for removing not just litter, but dangerous microplastics that can be mistaken as food by animals.