Concerned with the impact of plastic on Florida beaches, Surfrider chapters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have joined a nationwide program aimed at reducing harmful trash on the shoreline.
The Surfrider San Diego chapter started the Rise Above Plastics program in 2008, according to Caroline Canter, the chapter coordinator of Surfrider San Diego. Since then many chapters in the United States have launched the program in their local cities.
“Ocean plastic is currently a huge problem right now in the United States that the United Nations has declared it a global crisis,” said Catherine Uden, the chair of the Surfrider chapter Broward County. “It is a big trend to decrease as much plastic as possible because of this.”
The goal of the program is to advocate against the use of single-use plastic, including shopping bags, straws and bottles, which ties into Surfrider Organization’s mission of protecting the oceans, waves and beaches.
Rise Above Plastic is currently focusing on working with restaurants to reduce the use of plastic and polystyrene. According to Uden, most of the plastic found on the beach comes from restaurant sources. The plastic found often comes from restaurants not located directly on the beach.
“What we try to push with Rise Above Plastics is for people not use plastic at all,” said Uden. What we are trying to stress is reduce, reuse and refuse.”
In an effort to reduce plastic usage in restaurants, Surfrider Broward is trying to pass a straw ordinance that would either ban straws completely from restaurants or allow customers to have a straw if requested.
Surfrider Miami organizes beach clean-ups every month. The foundation currently has over 200 active members, according to Spencer Ash, the vice chair of Surfrider Miami. They also have an extended network of around 1,700.
Ash said the monthly beach cleanups have been extremely effective.
“Unless we show people, it’s not really going to drive that message home on how much pollution there really is on the beaches,” he said.
Members of Surfrider Miami have also been going to schools recently in hopes to teach kids about the importance of saving the environment, he said.
“The presentations usually include a 10-15 minute talk. Then, we get the kids outside to clean their school grounds,” said Ash. “It’s amazing the amount of cigarette butts and plastic the kids find.”
In addition to the anti-plastic program, Surfrider Miami started a campaign called “Butts of the Beach” in 2016.
In 2018, the City of Miami Beach gave the group a $10,000 grant to have cigarette collection devices installed on the beach. Surfrider Miami hopes to launch the program by the end of summer.