IN PICTURES: COASTAL CLEANUP NETS 1,550 POUNDS OF DEBRIS IN THE UPPER KEYS

a group of people standing around a pile of trash
Volunteers collect a large amount of debris at Ocean Forest Estates.

When many people think of the ocean plastic crisis and coastlines covered in plastic and discarded trash they often think of far-off beaches or unnamed communities. When people think of the Florida Keys, they think of clear beautiful waters or a night out in Key West. On March 27, it became apparent that these two worlds are one and the same. In three hours, volunteers removed 1,550 pounds of plastic and debris from a small section of coastline at Ocean Forest Estates in Key Largo as part of a cleanup by Coastlove. Ocean Forest is an undeveloped area of the John Pennekamp Complex that park staff, partner organizations and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are working to restore. With Coastlove’s marine debris data collection program, and hard-working citizen scientists, the group is able to identify the numbers of the most commonly used single-use plastics. This data is entered into a database where it can be shared with like-minded organizations, officials and researchers.