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Rhea’s crusade recovers 1,500lbs of trash

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When Rhea Gibbons returned to Bermuda for the summer she felt she had work to do.

Now she, with the assistance of other volunteers, has cleared more than a tonne of trash from the island's coastline in a series of cleanups.

Ms Gibbons said: “It was something I could do to apologise for my own impact on the environment, for doing the things I have done without thinking about the repercussions.

“Honestly, it didn't really matter if I was out on my own, whether anybody else showed up, whether anyone else validated it. It was something I was doing because it felt right.”

Ms Gibbons, 24, an English language and art teacher in Spain, who is also studying for a master's degree in art therapy, said she decided to step up after she saw the trash build up in popular tourist destinations she had visited such as the Philippines and Bali.

She said: “In Bali, because it's an island similar to Bermuda in a lot of respects, it really struck me the state of things and how people were dumping their trash.

“There were gutters lining the road and there was just trash, the waterways were littered with trash and the beaches were littered with trash.”

Ms Gibbons, from Paget, added: “I was thinking about people doing the same thing to our beaches, people walking past trash and pretending it isn't there, letting it be buried under the sand.

“I thought that when I do go home, I want to do something about this. Something impactful that will benefit my island, my parish.”

Ms Gibbons said she organised the clean-ups through Facebook with the help of Weldon Wade. She said the first clean-up targeted Southlands after she noticed the trash while swimming with her mother in early July.

Ms Gibbons said: “I remember going to that beach growing up and there was never any plastic, but then I saw pieces of plastic tangled up in the sargassum.

“There were big pieces, but the little pieces were really frightening as well.

“A couple days later, I reached out to Weldon and said we were going back that Sunday. It all went from there.”

She said the clean-ups have grown, and that more than a dozen people came to a recent effort in St David's.

Ms Gibbons said: “It feels great, to have this joining of like-minded people to do something we care about.”

The surge of volunteers has also meant an increase of waste collected. About 940lbs of trash was collected at Old Bridge Park in St Davids, while more than 700lbs of waste was found at Daniel's Head.

Ms Gibbons said volunteers had picked up abandoned air conditioners, boat parts, octopus traps, fishing gear and household waste.

She added that Bermuda should take action to prevent the build-up of waste not just to beautify the island, but to protect the environment.

Ms Gibbons said the island should consider a ban on single-use plastics and establish a paid clean-up task force who could help pick up trash.

She said the clean-ups will continue this weekend, with volunteers going to Coney Island Park in Hamilton Parish on Sunday. Further cleanups will be announced on Facebook and Instagram.

A start: a light truck is shown filled with trash and debris from a clean-up in St David's recently led by Rhea Gibbons (Photographs supplied)
Clean-up leader: Rhea Gibbons, second left, poses with other volunteers in St David's after a cleanup

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Published September 01, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 01, 2018 at 8:36 am)

Rhea’s crusade recovers 1,500lbs of trash

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