Hundreds of volunteers help clean up beaches Saturday

More than 450 volunteers took part in a Beaches Go Green cleanup event in Jacksonville Beach on Saturday morning.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – More than 450 volunteers took part in a Beaches Go Green cleanup event in Jacksonville Beach on Saturday morning.

Organizers tell News4JAX that 75 bags of trash along with 28,000 cigarette butts were collected.

At least 300 pounds of large items were also hauled away.

More than 28,000 cigarette butts were collected Saturday during the Beaches Go Green cleanup. (WJXT)

Organizers said they focused on streets, landscape beds, sidewalks and areas off the beach because wind and rain wash trash out to the beach and the oceans, and they want to catch it before it gets there.

“Our beaches do get a lot of attention, so we want to give attention to the other areas that also are highly polluted,” said Anne Marie Moquin with Beaches Go Green.

Moquin said they offer a prize to the volunteers who collect the most cigarette butts and to whoever finds the strangest item.

“As far as the cigarette butts, I think a lot of people think they’re made of paper, but they actually contain cellulose and acetate, which is a form of plastic, and it can take up to five years for them to break up into microplastics and all the while they leach the toxic chemicals that the cigarette butts are filtering out into the soil, and then, in turn, to the ocean,” Moquin said. “We separate those out, and we send those in to TerraCycle so they can be striped down and recycled into park benches and other items.”

When asked what it felt like participating in an event like this, one boy said, “Fun. Good. And feels helpful.” Another boy responded, “Doing a lot of good for the entire community.” And one girl said, “It’s really fun.”

Not every beachgoer cleans up their mess, so one woman said, “Just, you know, pick up after yourself. Take care of it so everyone else can enjoy it. So that’s what we’re all trying to do -- just keep it clean so that tourism comes and just people, locals get to enjoy it, and we all just, kind of, keep the environment greener.”

Groups participating Saturday included Enhanced Resource Centers, The Players Championship, Mayo Clinic, Amazon Jax 7 & Amazon Jax 2, Green Pines Elementary, Atlantic Beach Elementary, Mandarin High, Ponte Vedra High, Nease High, Ponte Vedra Palm Valley-Rawlings Elementary, Ponte Vedra Rotary groups, Focura, Fort Caroline Baptist Church, Fletcher Middle, Creekside High, iRocker & more.

“Absolutely. We have an awesome turnout this year in this event,” Moquin said. “We’re super excited about it.”

For many, they will come year after year to help.

“It feels, to be, like a good citizen in our community because there’s a ton of trash and it’s not helping our environment. It’s not, it’s not useful,” Julia said.

“Right down next to the water where the birds could get ahold of it,” Sue said.

Organizers said the total volunteer hour and trash abatement contribution to the community worked out to $28,035.24.

In addition to the beach cleanup, Enhanced Resource Centers, Salt Life Food Shack, The Players Championship, Donatos, Native Sun, Junkluggers, Brix, Monkeys Uncle Tavern, Publix, O-Ku, Sunrise Surf Shop and Jaffis donated food and prizes.

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