Miami Beach’s Big Sweep cleanup attracts hundreds

Newspaper: Miami
Title: Miami Beach’s Big Sweep cleanup attracts hundreds: hundreds of volunteers gave the beach a face-lift Saturday during the big sweep cleanup contest
Author/Reporter: Janice Vilchez
Date: June 17, 2008

”Keep your butts off the beach!” was the message Saturday as hundreds of volunteers combed through the sand searching for cigarette butts and trash at The Big Sweep clean-up on South Beach.

The challenge at hand, or literally under foot: Collect the most trash.

Jordan Guadalupe, 9, a fourth-grader at Christ Church School in Tamarac, was proud that his and his sister’s group filled a biodegradable shopping bag full of cigarette butts.

”Stop [littering], because it hurts our world,” he said.

His sister, Jessica Londono, 24, of Miami Beach attended with some friends.

”Everyone who is part of my life should be part of cleaning up the environment,” she said.

The event was sponsored by the Environmental Coalition of Miami Beach, known as ECOMB, a nonprofit organization promoting beach clean-up, green initiatives and recycling efforts. Volunteers came from local businesses, schools and organizations.

Participants started their clean-up at two sites — First and 14th streets at the beach — and worked toward the middle, at Seventh Street and the beach. They bent, squatted and kneeled on the sand to search for debris, following instructions to avoid stepping on vegetation.

Pema Lozado, 30, manager of Lululemon Athletica in South Beach, was dressed for the occasion. In a hot pink bikini top, khaki short shorts, pink flip flops, sunglasses and a hat, she held a shopping bag for butts and tied a garbage bag to her shorts for trash. She said she was disgusted by the amount of cigarette butts — enough to fill about a third of a grocery bag — she had found in about an hour.

”It’s a triple threat because they pollute themselves, the atmosphere and the ground,” she said, referring to smokers.

Volunteers found myriad items, including clothing, boogie boards, pregnancy tests, condoms, batteries, soda cans, plastic ware and cups.

Katie Schwartz, 21, said she loves spending time on the beach and wanted to see it clean.

”It blows that people assume it’s a trash can and that people are going to clean up after them,” said Schwartz, a senior at the University of Florida majoring in landscape architecture.

Beach-goer Anthony Marcoux, 29, of Coconut Grove said he puts his garbage in grocery bags when he visits the beach.

”It shows people responsibility when you see other people [cleaning up],” said Marcoux, a mason for Decorative Masonry in Miami Shores.

Mik Reinel, 44, of Pembroke Pines, enjoying the sun with his son Alec, 13, said they don’t leave their water bottles, soda cans or plastic bags behind. Instead, they throw them back into their cooler to recycle at home.

”We live in a green community and we’re very conscious of [keeping] the environment clean,” Reinel said.

After three hours of sifting through the sand, volunteers met for lunch by the dunes at Seventh Street, where the winners of the competition were announced. Three teams qualified for unique trophies made of recycled airplane parts by metal sculptor Omar Ali.

The categories and winners:

• Beach Master trophy for collecting the largest amount of cigarette butts was awarded to Lululemon Athletica’s team.

• Can It trophy for collecting largest amount of general trash was awarded to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s team.

• Keep It Clean trophy for the largest number of volunteers — 85 — was awarded to Fontainebleau Hotel.

ECOMB, founded in 1994, was presented with a proclamation from the city of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County declaring June 14 The Big Sweep Day.

”It’s such an important cause to maintain a clean beach and a sustainable environment for our residents and visitors,” said Michael Góngora, chairman of ECOMB.