Cash Trash Bash keeps it clean
Four years ago, Karen Plianthos set to out to launch a fundraiser to help cover the costs of a friend’s bachelorette party while cleaning up Bermuda’s waters.
Since then, the Cash Trash Bash has become an annual tradition, raising almost $10,000 for charities and removing more than five tonnes of garbage from the sea.
But Mrs Plianthos said as much as she and other volunteers collect, there is always more trash out there.
She said: “This is the saddest thing about it. My mom and I talked about it. For us it’s a good day to go out, collect trash and know that you pulled three or four bags out in a two or three hour period.
“But a great day is when you see nothing. I have yet to have a great day, and it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing when you go back to a dive site a year later and you are still pulling out the same amount of trash.”
Mrs Plianthos said she started the Cash Trash Bash in 2015 with the goal of raising money for a party while also helping Keep Bermuda Beautiful.
She said: “I came up with the idea of challenging friends and family to give me a dollar for every pound of marine trash that I could pull out of the ocean.
“It was a rip-roaring success — so much so that we gave a good bit of money to the KBB.
“The following year I thought I really wanted to do it again. There was no party to raise money for, but why not take that challenge and the money raised from it and split it 50/50 between a local charity and an overseas charity?”
That year she and other volunteers collected 2,268lbs of marine trash and split the $3,961 raised between Kids on the Reef and Virunga National Park Rangers’ Widows’ Sewing Centre Fund.
In 2017, Mrs Plianthos and others collected more than 4,000 tonnes of trash and raised $4,312 for Bermuda’s Living Reefs and Clean Bhutan.
She said: “It has been primarily myself and my mother I encouraged, cajoled and persuaded others to join in. The Sexy Reef Ambassadors, a lionfish culling group, have come out with me. I have had my entire knitting group from The Black Purl in Hamilton come out to help me.”
This year, she decided to put the funds raised to the Bermuda Lionfish Task Force and I Am Water in South Africa.
Mrs Plianthos said: “I thought the BLTF is something I really truly believe in, and then I thought that because I liked the principle of what I Am Water has done in Bermuda, I should go back to where it started in South Africa with founder Hanli Prinsloo.
“She started this, and she came to Bermuda once to do a TED talk. I wanted to make sure their foundation had some funding.”
In total, she said the fundraiser has raised $9,813.92 for charities and removed 10,486 pounds of trash from Bermuda’s waters.
Mrs Plianthos said beer bottles make up the bulk of the collected waste.
She said Bermuda should look into strategies to reduce the amount of waste.
Mrs Plianthos said: “We used to have an incentive set up by the KBB. It encouraged people to collect aluminium and you would get 24¢ per pound for the aluminium. For an 8-year-old $5 was a lot of money, but it was a lot of work too.
“If there was a way that we could resurrect that scheme or set up a deposit scheme on the bottles ... of course people are not going to want to have their Heineken or Amstel prices increase by 5¢ on a bottle.”
She added that 24¢ per pound might not be a huge incentive today, but other groups could take advantage of such a scheme to raise money to improve the community.
Mrs Plianthos said: “In high school you could go out, do something good and raise money and go on to something that would further yourself.
“This could be something that churches and community groups get involved with and get behind.”