Title: Big Sweep 2009 aims to clean up South Beach
Author/Reporter: Christina Veiga
Miami Beach Big Sweep, a trash-collecting competition, will take place on Sunday.
Volunteers will fan across South Beach on Sunday for the Environmental Coalition of Miami Beach’s second Miami Beach Big Sweep, a trash- collecting competition that was inspired by a Brazilian crime spree.
They called it a sweep: hundreds of poor children would run in groups down a Brazilian beach, snatching purses and bags as they went.
ECOMB Executive Director Luiz Rodrigues, who is Brazilian, thought it was a brilliant idea for cleaning up South Beach.
”They would gather and just run for the beach, robbing everyone,” Rodrigues said. ‘So I said, let’s do a big sweep for trash.’ ”
Teams of volunteers will start at two stations – South Pointe Drive and Ocean Drive, and 15th Street and Ocean Drive — and converge at Seventh Street.
Instead of valuables, volunteers will scour the beach for garbage, especially cigarette butts.
Contrary to popular opinion, cigarette butts are not biodegradable because the filters contain plastics.
The butts also escape many beach-cleaning efforts because they are so small, said Ana Marie Cortez- Meza, an ECOMB board member and local business owner.
”Pretty soon, we’re going to go the beach and put our umbrella in cigarette butts,” she said.
During last year’s sweep, about 250 participants picked up about 20 pounds of cigarette butts and 650 pounds of trash.
Jessica Londono, vice president of Advantaged Yacht Charters and Sales and a member of ECOMB, organized a team for the first Big Sweep. She is participating again this year with her family, friends and employees.
”Well, nothing’s fun about cleaning cigarette butts,” Londono said. “But it was very educational. We knew what we were doing was something good.”
After the trash is collected, it will be piled onto plastic tarps for display.
Perpetual trophies, which are passed on from last year’s winners, will be awarded to the groups that have the most volunteers, pick up the most trash and collect the most cigarette butts.
The trophies are made of recycled airplane parts made to look like rakes, garbage cans and other cleaning tools.
There will also be a raffle for surfing and snorkeling lessons, a moonlight kayak tour, passes to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens and more.
Lunch and refreshments will be available for volunteers, but they have to bring their own refillable water bottles, which are more environmentally friendly than the disposable variety. An extra raffle ticket will be given to those who bring extra reusable water bottles.