In 2013, I helped my daughter with a beach cleanup she was organizing for a 4H community project. Since we spend a lot of time in the Anastasia State Park, she chose that area for her project. It was that day that I realized something terrible was happening to our waterways in St. Augustine. I had read Captain Charles Moore’s book Plastic Oceans and watched his documentaries, but I still had not connected the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” to anything that could possibly involve Florida. I could only see pristine beaches and beautiful estuaries I visited.  I did not realize that  tiny plastics were on our beaches and in substantial numbers before that day..  Amounts so large and pieces so tiny, it would never be possible to cleanup.

Many people are becoming aware of the harmful effects of plastics in the environment and they are familiar with the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, but most do not realize, we have a “Garbage Patch” here. It’s called the North Atlantic Gyre. Plastics in the environment are a worldwide concern and a major threat to the health of our oceans and estuaries. Plastic has been in our environment now for over fifty years. It does not biodegrade. It is causing catastrophic havoc on the environment. Its’ consequences are not understood by scientists and are just now beginning to be studied. Evidence is starting to indicate this is having an impact environmentally and harming the health of animals, as well.

I have continued observing and learning about these small microplastics. By my participation in the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project and volunteering at the GTMNERR, my knowledge and understanding of microplastics has grown. It’s my intent to share my observations and concerns with others, so that we can do our part as a society to maintain healthy waterways. I’m hopeful that future generations can have the pleasure of enjoying the beautiful beaches and estuaries as much I do.

Paige Priester