Keep PCB Beautiful continues beach cleaning efforts; micro-plastics a growing concern

Bay County

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — While there’s only one Earth Day, a group in Panama City Beach is working to spread appreciation for the environment all year long. 

Keep PCB Beautiful was created two years ago by resident JoAnn Weatherford and 11 others who wanted to work to keep beaches clean through community clean-up events, and now their “Adopt-a-Beach Access” program.

“We thought about doing an Adopt-a-Beach Access program because groups could get together and go out on their time when it was convenient for them and still be a part of the solution of picking up trash off our beaches,” Weatherford said on Thursday.

After a successful implementation of the program in 2020 with all 97 public beach accesses adopted within 6 months, it was nationally recognized by the Keep America Beautiful organization in February of 2021. Through the years, they’ve collected more than 15 hundred pounds of trash, but now, tiny pieces of plastic are creating a big problem around the world. 

“It is a problem, worldwide,” she said. “Not just here in Florida.”

Weatherford said micro-plastics are a growing concern, as plastic litter like water bottles, bags and even toy shovels left on the beach degrades into small particles that are ingested by wildlife, and possibly even humans through the consumption of fish.

“Our sea turtles, all of our marine life, the shore birds, they eat that thinking that it’s food and it makes them sick,” she explained. “That’s why turtles will strand and dolphins will strand because of the plastic that they’re eating.”

She said this year’s Earth Day theme is “ditch the plastic,” encouraging the use of reusable bags, bottles and straws among other things. 

On Saturday, April 22, Keep PCB Beautiful is hosting a plastic bag exchange, where people can trade in 25 plastic shopping bags for a new reusable bag at the Grand Lagoon Farmer’s Market near Captain Anderson’s. Rain or shine, Weatherford said the event will go on, even if it has to be a drive-through occasion.

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