VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Volunteers in New Smyrna Beach say they are seeing a worrying trend when it comes to trash on the beach since the start of the pandemic. They are hoping, though, that the 35th International Coastal Clean Up will get things moving in the right direction. 

What You Need To Know

  • Masks, gloves and other PPP have been showing up in greater quantities on New Smyrna Beach

  • 315 million pounds of trash have been cleaned up since the first coastal clean up

  • You can download the Clean Swell app on your smart phone to register how much trash you cleaned up

Linda Henline and volunteer Kristin Williams spend their mornings on the hunt for trash.

“Since the pandemic and the beaches have opened, the trash is horrible,” said Williams a volunteer and board member for the organization Keep NSB Clean.

Henline, founder of  Keep NSB Clean, believes the group has made progress over their last five years of scouring the beaches, but since the start of the pandemic things have changed.

"A lot of PPE, a lot of masks, a lot of gloves," said Henline.  "Also people, they seem to be throwing down more. They don’t want to touch the trash cans, they are leaving diapers, that kind of thing.”

With people coming to the beach looking for something to do, she is seeing a lot more trash. 

“People are, I think, frustrated with all the chaos that is going on and it leads to more people not being as concerned for the environment and sometimes throwing their trash down,” said Henline. 

This could create long term problems, Williams said.

“Something that was once a cup lid breaks down, becomes microplastic and then basically is being ingested by the fish, the birds, and the turtles, and really we are eating that again,” she said. 

That’s why more than ever they’re hoping people will get involved this weekend in the 35th International Coastal Clean Up. 

“Just clean up wherever you are, or find your favorite stretch of water and get at it," said Henline.

In New Smyrna Beach, they even have a Fill-A-Bag station to help you get started.

“It helps turn an ordinary walk into a meaningful experience," said Henline. "You can come grab a bucket, do a clean up, bring it back, you’re done.”

This year’s clean up will look different, with no organized effort and no big crowds of volunteers, due to COVID-19.

But there’s still hope to make the beach litter-free with the combined efforts of individuals. 

“We are hoping that folks come out and just do their part," said Williams. "Just pick up. If everyone picked up along the way as they were walking on the beach, it would be so much cleaner.”

If you want to participate in the International Coastal Clean up, you can do so in your own area.

More than 15 million volunteers have collected 315 million pounds of trash since the first coastal clean up.