Mark and Susan Savon of Indian Rocks Beach pick up trash on the beach during the Florida Coastal Beach cleanup.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – For as long as anyone can remember most litter on Indian Rocks Beach has been cigarette butts. Nothing has changed.
The annual Florida Coastal Cleanup took place on Indian Rocks Beach on Oct. 19 and every volunteer reported that cigarette butts were the most prevalent form of litter they found.
“We found tons and tons of cigarette butts, even the kids noticed it,” said John Pollard of Seminole.
Pollard was at the cleanup with his son, a member of a Cub Scout troop. It was his first time at the event.
“It was actually worse than I thought,” he said. “We found way more stuff than I thought we would.”
Pollard was happy with the turnout of volunteers who combed the beach for trash that morning.
Randy Schwab, IRB’s Public Works supervisor, who oversees the cleanup each year, said as usual the number of volunteers was steady. Just an hour after the 8 a.m. start of the event he reported that more than 100 people had signed in to help.
Among those were David and Anabel Ottersbach of St. Petersburg. They, along with sons Braden and Ashton, were picking up trash as they walked along.
“This is a good thing,” said David Ottersbach. “It is a real nice way to get the community involved in something.”
As he spoke son Braden ran up proclaiming he had found a feather. His dad acknowledged that was unusual then joined others in pinpointing the worst culprit.
“Cigarette butts are everywhere,” he said. “The boys are finding them everywhere they look.”
Anabel was happy just to be out on the beach with her family on a beautiful Florida morning. Even though they were working, it didn’t seem like it.
“The boys love this. They are working and picking up plenty of trash, but they don‘t know they are working,” she said, laughing.
Nearby Mark and Susan Savon of Indian Rocks Beach were doing their part in keeping the beach clean. It was obvious that cigarette butts dewere what they were encountering most as well.
“Do you know what we should invent,” asked Mark. “We should invent a dissolvable cigarette butt, or one that automatically burns up, something to eliminate this mess.”
The Savons have been coming to the beach cleanups for years. Susan said things are looking better overall.
“We’re not finding as many glass bottles or plastic bottles as usual,” she said. “In fact there isn’t much plastic so I think things are getting better.”
Beach cleanups are held twice a year, in October and in March, and routinely the collected trash fills 100 garbage bags, enough to fill a small dumpster. Schwab expects this time will be no different. Each cleanup also brings reports of unusual items discarded on the beach. This time it seems quieter with only a broken, discarded beach chair as the most notable item.
The cigarette butts however remain constant and no one seems to be able to find the solution to preventing them from being discarded on the beach. There are cigarette disposal containers at each of the many beach accesses in Indian Rocks Beach. Volunteers actually reported finding butts ground into the sand underneath the disposal container.
Earlier this year the IRB Commission passed a new anti-littering ordinance calling for a fine of up to $500 for anyone caught littering on the beach. The ordinance was proposed and passed with the cigarette butts in mind. When told of the new law, Pollard of Seminole, the man who said he and his son had found “tons” of butts, had a telling question.