FORT MYERS, Fla.- A lot of Floridians voiced outrage at the BP oil spill and for good reason.The massive spill did a lot of damage and posed a threat to beaches in Florida. But most people still don't realize some of the things they bring to the beach pose just as much harm our beaches.
For most people, there is no such thing as a bad day at the beach. That is unless your view of the sea is littered with litter.
"Yes, I just got annoyed with some back there. Sometimes I will bend over and pick it up. Especially if I think it is a threat to the turtles or something," said Linda, a beach visitor we caught up with on Fort Myers Beach.
Linda and her husband stroll the beach regularly. They get annoyed when they spot trash. They're not alone. Terry Cain works with keep lee county beautiful...and she gave us a rundown of what the most common things they're picking up on the beach. Most of it is coming from beach goers.
"Cigarette butts are the main thing. A little plastic baggie. Food," described Cain. "People are eating more at the beach. They are bringing their snacks to the beach. Things blow away and we're finding a lot of that along with the straws."
Terry took us on a short stroll on the beach to show us what she means.
"This is a plastic bag. This will get air in it and will float out in the Gulf of Mexico and it looks just like the favorite food of the sea turtle. It looks like a jellyfish," said Cain.
Businesses on Fort Myers Beach hire people to rake up the beach. However, some of the stuff is hard for rakers to get up. That's because things like cigarette butts and straws blend in with the sand.
During it's last cleanup at Bunche Beach in September, Keep Lee County Beautiful removed:
49 plastic straws
113 plastic bags
176 food wrappers and containers
196 plastic caps and lids
541 beverage containers
576 of cigarette butts
Altogether, they picked up a total of 1,155 pounds of trash.
Fort Myers Beach environmental scientist Keith Laakkonen says cleanups like that are crucial to preserving the beach.
"The problem is a lot of the straws are clear. A lot of people don't even see em. They tend to camouflage really well so the town of Fort Myers Beach passed a resolution a couple years ago encourage businesses to voluntarily reduce use of straws and lids and other things that are not biodegradable that can persist in a marine environment," said Laakkonen.
Laakkonen says they are also fighting an offshore battle to keep the beach clean from boaters who throw litter overboard.
"You have these gigantic gyres. These kind of spinning eddies of trash. Occasionally we've actually had kind of these eddies come in with trash and debris. One last year-- we had a big wash up of old schlitz cans from the 1970s that had been clearly floating out in the Gulf of Mexico for 30 years and all of the sudden they just came in," said Laakonen.
Which is why Fort Myers Beach and Keep Lee County Beautiful need your help.
They ask you use some of the biodegradable trash bags they have at the beach to help them clean up. They also ask you make sure you take out what you take in.
"It is as simple as walking up the stairs and finding your closest trash can," said Cain.
The issue of straws, cigarette butts, and plastic in our oceans is an international issue. However, Fort Myers Beach is being proactive.
Right now, they're in the initial stages of creating an "Adopt a Beach" program where civic groups could adopt a stretch of the beach to keep clean.