Beyond Florida’s beautiful beaches and pristine waves, a garbage patch lurks in the Atlantic Ocean.
Like its sinister Texas-sized sister in the Pacific, this garbage patch is massive, stretching from Virginia to Cuba. Billions of garbage bit s become deadly snacks for wildlife. Animals accidentally or intentionally ingest the minute particles, not knowing the danger.
Pollution problems like the Atlantic garbage patch endanger wildlife of all kinds, whether it swims in the seas, dwells on the land, or f lies through the air. And those pollution problems have only one source: us. Each particle reached the garbage patch after human pollution and inaction allowed it to drift away.
Florida has more than 1,260 miles of coastline, so its residents have an obligation to stop trash from washing into water supplies, including the ocean and gulf waters around our peninsula. Street sweeping is a major part of Florida’s pollution reduction efforts. Let’s examine which Florida species face extinction, why pollution affects their survival, and how street sweeping becomes part of the solution.
Florida’s Threatened and Endangered Species
Wildlife management and tracking efforts take place at both the federal and state levels. At the federal level, there are several designations for at-risk species:
- Endangered: a species in danger of extinction
- Threatened: a species on the brink of becoming endangered
Not all species that live in or around Florida are considered endangered or threatened by federal agencies. However, sometimes Florida wildlife management classifies a species as threatened or of special concern within state jurisdiction.
According to a report from 2011 (the most recent available report), Florida has:
- 47 federally designated endangered species
- 24 federally designated threatened species
- 19 state-designated threatened species
- 42 state species of special concern
These threatened or endangered animals come from all five classes of vertebrates: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Notable animals on the watch list include:
- American alligators
- American crocodiles
- Florida manatees
- Florida panthers
- Green sea turtles
- Hawksbill sea turtles
- Humpback whales
- Kemp’s ridley sea turtles
- Leatherback sea turtles
- Loggerhead sea turtles
- North Atlantic right whales
- Sei whales
- Sperm whales
- Several species of beach mice
Garbage Pollution’s Threats to Rare Wildlife
Garbage pollution isn’t the only threat to these endangered and threatened species. But, it is one pollution source we have much m ore control over-if we choose to be careful. The giant garbage patches in the ocean accumulated largely because someone littered or mismanaged garbage in landfills.
Ocean garbage patches aren’t giant quilts of loosely connected soda bottles and food wrappers. Most of the garbage lies beneath the surface, so you might not be aware of it even on a boat in the middle of the garbage patch. Most garbage particles in the ocean are small, less than the weight of a paper clip.
Nonetheless, floating ocean garbage poses major threats to ocean life. Animals might eat or swallow these particles. They can also get tangled in garbage with holes and odd-sized openings. Plus, the garbage breaks down in the ocean, which releases harmful chemicals toxic to ocean life.
What can we do to prevent garbage patches from growing? The logical answer-manage our trash better-sounds simple, but with so many people using so much trash, the problem becomes more complicated. Everyone has to do his or her part to reduce the problem, but not everyone takes an active role. That’s where street sweepers step in to pick up the slack.
Street Sweeping to Protect Animals from Trash Pollution
To get an idea of how street sweepers reduce pollution, think back on the last time you went to an event with a large crowd of people. It might have been a parade, an outdoor concert, a theme park, a fair, or a festival.
Now, recall the amount of garbage you saw. You probably saw several overstuffed garbage cans and countless pieces of litter underfoot. After a big event, it takes a concentrated effort of many people to pick up all that trash. And unfortunately, people miss many of the smaller, more dangerous pieces of garbage. They can’t even see the microscopic debris left behind.
Street sweepers, on the other hand, can efficiently and effectively clear away garbage. They can pick up and dispose of garbage that’ s large, small, and invisible to the human eye. No wonder cities in many coastal states consider street sweeping an essential part of pollution control and reduction!
Although endangered wildlife and the ocean garbage patches remain big problems, we can do our part to stop them from growing. Remember to throw away all your trash at big events, and make efforts to use reusable or recyclable products. Between your efforts and the clean-up work of street sweepers, we can help Florida’s endangered and threatened species survive-and thrive.