Surveyors needed to record waste plastic on local beaches

| 12/04/2016 | 9 Comments
Cayman News Service

Volunteers conduct a Beach Plastics Survey at Colliers, East End (Photo by Christine Rose-Smyth)

(CNS): The National Conservation Council is calling on volunteers to help with a new regional conservation initiative which is examining plastic washing up on beaches. It is estimated that there are 5 trillion bits of plastic floating in the surface layer, or top 10cm of the ocean, and around 275 million tons enters the sea every year. Cayman’s beaches are littered with plastic from far and wide and the NCC is taking part in this initiative organised by the Institute of Marine & Antarctic Studies in Australia to provide data for a study of the density of beach plastic debris on inhabited and uninhabited Caribbean Islands.

Cayman is taking part in the Beach Plastics Survey project to help scientists learn more about and understand the impact of plastic on regional beaches. Local amateur conservationists are being asked to undertake surveys on Earth Day while conducting the annual beach clean-up.

Following the first survey in these islands at Colliers beach, East End, earlier this month, NCC Chair Christine Rose-Smyth, who is the council’s representative for the district, explained that Cayman was asked to take part by the online conservation group Birds Caribbean.

“I thought that the Conservation Council was uniquely positioned to encourage surveys in each of the districts where we have representatives. East End was our trial run and it worked perfectly,” she said. “By sampling in each of the three Cayman Islands we can provide important insight into the question of where beach plastics and other floating debris comes from because of our widely differing populations sizes on the three islands and also because of our position in the western Caribbean.”

Cayman News Service

The team of citizen scientists at Colliers beach after they finished the survey (L-R) Mideya Elliott, Aliceann Kirchman, MacFarlane Conolly, Babry Conolly (Photos by Christine Rose-Smyth)

Rose-Smyth said that several bits of plastic, including bottles, were identified as originating in Haiti. “I have noticed that Haitian plastics are common on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman beaches as well and I hope that we will be able to obtain some precise data from both of those islands during this study. There is clearly both an international and a local dimension to the litter on our shores in addition to the humanitarian and public health crisis that waste is causing in Haiti itself,” she added.

In the first survey, the East End citizen-scientists surveyed a 20 x 2 metre transect at Colliers beach beyond the reach of the well-groomed Public Beach. The group found 413 pieces of plastics and 46 other man-made items. Small and medium plastic fragments were found at a rate of 5 per square metre, followed in abundance by Styrofoam fragments from picnic plates and food containers.

Rose-Smyth called on volunteers and civic action groups to get involved, explaining that a survey can be conducted ahead of, or alongside, a planned beach cleanup. Volunteers only need is a 20 metre (66.75 foot) line and some 1 and 2 metre-long sticks to mark out the survey site.

“We found that a pair of investigators on each side of the transect line worked well, with a data recorder in each pair, but a single person can perform a survey too. After the plastics and other debris were identified and recorded we bagged and photographed it at the end of the survey,” she said.

Full details of the project and data recording sheets can be found on the National Conservation Council’s News page on the DoE website.

The beach surveys can be carried out at any time until 30 April for inclusion in the full Caribbean data analysis. Anyone interested can contact the Conservation Council at  with questions and to notify where groups will be conducting surveys and to send us picture and results.

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Category: environmental health, Health, Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (9)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just get Dart corporation to clean up any waste with their logo on it. Now you’ve gotten somewhere. Oh, and stop idolizing people you make rich while they destroy my environment.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can’t imagine any justifiable reason why there would be surveys conducted to record plastic which washes ashore on our beaches. I can think of two possible reasons but hardly justifiable.

    First – to document actually how much plastic washes ashore. Why, when every day we send tons of unsorted and un-recycled plastics to Mt. Trashmore? In that context what does it matter how much washes ashore?

    Second – to try to identify where it originates. Good luck! What does it matter!! Then are we supposed to re-direct the ocean currents and gyres to re-deposit the flotsam elsewhere?

    A call for volunteers to clean the beach is appropriate, as that’s the only sensible thing to do with flotsam. “Surveying” or studying it is a waste of time – at least for me!

    Perhaps those who eagerly love to criticize “Caymankind” and accuse us of being the main source of beach litter may wish to volunteer to “survey” or “study” the flotsam plastics!

    Or perhaps Dart Enterprises, a main supplier of styrofoam products into the world’s environment, will expand its recycling to include plastics. I have bags of plastic bottles I refuse to dump and my wife is mad as hell and won’t stand for it anymore!!

    • Anonymous says:

      For a couple years now, Grand Cayman has had well-organized collection depo’s at most grocery stores for recycling Number 1 PET or PETE (polyethlene terephthalate), found in: water bottles, mouthwash, peanut butter, salad dressing, veg oil containers; and Number 2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) found in milk jugs, juice bottles, detergent, household cleaner, shampoo bottles and some yoghurt tubs.

      I get what you’re saying about Number 4 LDPE (low density polythylene), Number 5 PP (polypropylene), and Number 6 PS (polystyrene) – hopefully those will be added to the plastic recycling program asap.

      To Cayman’s hospitality offenders/DoT/CITA: if there are boasts of “serving 400 Mudslides per day”, why not opt to use responsible sleeves of recyclable Number 1 or 2 plastic cups/straws? How long are we going to assume that tourists are blind to this waste? Most of our visitors hail from places where compulsory recycling has been the norm for a decade or more. They are sophisticated and want to see their waste going into the correct bin.

      • Anonymous says:

        Its too bad All the recycling in Cayman has to be subsidized by the taxpayer
        And your Govt wants it that way to ensure lots of money floats around from the taxpayer

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh my, you can take the plastic and put it in the bins at the back of Fosters supermarkets. I live in the Savannah area and find it most convenient.

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