September was International Coastal Cleanup Month. In recognition of this Friends of the Environment joins annually with the Abaco Tourist Office to encourage community members to participate in cleanups of roads and beaches. All schools, community groups, businesses and individuals are encouraged to take part. Trash bags, gloves and data forms are provided to school and community groups.
On September 20, between 9:30 am and 11 am, 55 students from Smith Memorial College and Central Abaco Primary School, assisted by three members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Wynsome Ferguson of the Abaco Tourist Office, Cassandra Abrahams – Education Officer with Friends of the Environment – and AJ McIntosh – an intern with Friends of the Environment – cleaned up approximately 2 1/2 miles of the Ernest Dean Highway between the airport roundabout and Spring City.
Sadly, the Ernest Dean Highway is a continual eyesore, with each side of the road (and sometimes even the middle of road) strewn with garbage of both the large and small variety. When Smith Memorial College and Central Abaco Primary School were contacted for help the students were happy to take the opportunity to do their part. Even though some people employed by local government had done some clearing the previous day, the schoolchildren still collected 49 bags of trash. Some large appliances such as refrigerators and washers and tires estimated at 575 pounds were also removed.
Every piece of trash picked up was recorded on a data form provided by the Ocean Conservancy. The Ocean Conservancy is an environmental group operating out of Washington DC which encourages coastal cleanups throughout the world. The Friends of the Environment group is their local representative on Abaco. Although the month of September is designated ‘Coastal Cleanup Month,’ roads are also cleaned up.
The Ocean Conservancy is interested in how many people participate, time spent and miles covered. They collect the data and compile an annual report. “This falls in line with what Friends wants to do for Abaco,” says Olivia Patterson, Program Coordinator for Friends.
“All of the schools contacted have been very willing to help,” stated Patterson. “Most of the schools on the mainland and the cays are organizing their own cleanups and Man O War Primary School has already cleaned up Ocean Beach, Forest Heights cleaned up Crossing Beach and Hope Town School cleanup the mangroves near the school.”
Schools will continue clean ups into the beginning of October. The three Defence Force officers were also happy to help, stating; “It is a pleasure for us to help in this way.”
The items forming the largest percentage of garbage collected were glass beverage bottles, (409 were picked up during the two hour period), with beverage cans also forming a large percentage.
Second on the list was food wrappers from candy, chips, etc. Bottle caps, plastic and paper bags, Styrofoam takeaway containers and small pieces of plastic were also found in great numbers. Perhaps the most unusual items found during these cleanups have been two weaves, a shotgun shell and a dead cat.
Keniqua Bowles and Basia McKinney, grade 7 students of Smith Memorial said that they were excited to be helping with the cleanup. “It is good when somebody cares enough about the Earth to do something like this,” said Basia.
These young schoolchildren are doing their part towards making our island a cleaner and more attractive place.