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There’s money in marine debris for charity trash collector

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Karen Plianthos and mother Louise Jones with a bag of collected bottles. (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

An activist pulled almost a tonne of trash from Bermuda’s waters this summer after she relaunched what had been an annual fundraising campaign.

Karen Plianthos said that while Covid-19 and raising two young children had caused her Cash Trash Bash campaign to go on hiatus for almost three years, she was happy to return to the water this year and collect 2,142lbs of trash in a series of dives.

“I really wanted to get back out and do something,” she said. “In years past we would try to expand and go to multiple locations and try to clear it up as much as possible.

“It’s hard for me to leave a location when I know there’s still more trash there, so we would just keep going back there.

“This year the south side of Ports Island we probably pulled a minimum of 500lbs of trash, if not more, there.”

Karen Plianthos poses with trash pulled from Devonshire Bay. (Photograph supplied)

Mrs Plianthos held her first Cash Trash Bash in 2015 with the intention of raising funds for a close friend’s bachelorette party while helping Keep Bermuda Beautiful.

She said that she had challenged friends to donate $1 for every pound of trash she collected and divided the proceeds between the party and the charity.

Mrs Plianthos repeated the challenge the next year, splitting the funds raised between local and international charities.

This year, she returned to the water to benefit Bermuda-based charity Waterstart, which runs ocean education programmes, and Wildlife Friendly Otley, devoted to protecting wildlife in the town of Otley in West Yorkshire, UK.

With this year’s figures included, the Cash Trash Bash campaigns have resulted in 12,600lbs of trash being pulled from Bermuda’s waters.

Onion bags full of trash collected from the bottom of Bermuda’s waters. (Photograph supplied)

Mrs Plianthos said: “One thing that is heart warming is we spent one year of the initiative hitting the south side of Darrell’s Island near where the old airport was and this year there was nothing there. Maybe half a bag of trash.

“It’s really good to know we spent so much time cleaning up that area and now here we are years later and there is not much there.

“I would like to think there has been some sort of change and we are not throwing waste into the water as much as we used to.

“The majority of bottles we are pulling out have a certain amount of growth on them, which indicates to me they have been there a long time.”

While glass bottles have made up the bulk of the collected waste, Ms Plianthos said the dives have resulted in a few surprises over the years.

“We did a clean-up at Devonshire Bay and I was pulling out PVC piping that was maybe two or three inches in diameter,” she said.

“I swum back from the mouth of the bay to the beach and as I was picking out the bottles I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. It was a spotted golden eel that was living inside the PVC pipe.

“He was not happy at all that I had taken away his home and was slithering out onto the beach.

“I was able to quickly grab the pole, hold it so he wouldn’t come out and get him back into the ocean.”

Boxes of bottles collected from Bermuda’s waters. (Photograph supplied)

She said that not all of the animals she finds are so lucky.

“The saddest thing is finding bottles or cans that have crabs inside that have gone in and grown too big and can’t get out,” she said. “This year what I have seen for the first time is conchs that are trapped by fishing line – mostly milk conchs.

“The only reason why I was alerted to that was because we went to Ports Island so often.

“I saw this conch in the same spot three days in a row and when I looked closer, there was this transparent filament around it.

“I found two like that, and its sad because they are being held in place and being starved of food.”

Mrs Plianthos, was helped by her mother Louise Jones who skippers their boat Seaweed, and by about ten other volunteers including her two and three-year-old daughters Grace and Ophelia who clean out bottles and scour the shorelines for debris.

After each dive, the team donned Kevlar gloves for protection to clean the waste using screwdrivers and delivered it by boat to Mill’s Creek, Pembroke where it was weighed and sorted for later recycling or incineration.

“This campaign gives me a feeling of hope in that I hope I can bring awareness to others and education as well – just how much our actions of tossing a bottle into the sea can affect things,” Ms Plianthos said.

Those interested in sponsoring Cash Trash Bash can do so online through GoFundMe.

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Published August 22, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated August 22, 2022 at 7:36 am)

There’s money in marine debris for charity trash collector

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