On a surf trip to Nicaragua in February 2019, MAST Academy alumni Theo Quenee, 22, and Coby Barreras, 22, both of whom reside in Coconut Grove, realized that the vast amount Water and coastline pollution was as common in underdeveloped areas as was in South Florida.
âWe realized that all over the world we are facing the same problem, regardless of the type of infrastructure,â said Quenee.
âWhen we got back, we wanted to continue the cleanup efforts that were going on here locally,â he said.
He and Barreras launched the non-profit environmental association Sendit4thesea in April 2019.
Since then, the group’s volunteers have collected around 36,000 pounds of trash while cleaning the shore.
âWe really wanted to get the young people of Miami to come out, so that’s what prompted us to launch Sendit4thesea,â said Quenee, who works as a freelance photographer and videographer.
A ton of waste in one day
Before the Covid pandemic, Sendit4thesea used to organize cleanings every weekend – now it’s twice a month.
Each cleanup typically brings together 70 to 80 volunteers, but for larger cleanups, like at Bayfront Park, up to 500 volunteers showed up, explains Quenee.
He says December 29, 2020 was the day volunteers picked up the most trash in a cleanup: 2,477 pounds at Bayfront Park, over a ton of trash.
Once they sorted out all the trash, they counted 11,514 bottle caps, 6,725 straws and 1,635 plastic water bottles, among other single-use plastic items.
âI think everything we do has an impact,â says Quenee.
âWhether it’s your packaging as a restaurateur if you create waste through your take-out products. Maybe it’s a jet ski rental company that doesn’t teach customers what to do and what not to do when you’re in a bed of seagrass, âhe says.
“I think if everyone were just a little more aware of Biscayne Bay and took the extra five minutes to relay the message, Miami would be a lot different.”
Using social media to attract young people
Quenee says social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, have been helpful in building an audience for the cleanup events.
âWe try to post educational, informative or inspirational articles in a way that gets people going out and being active,â he says of the association’s social media posts.
Photographs on their Instagram page show volunteers carrying large pieces of debris stuck in mangrove roots, containers full of discarded colorful bottle caps, and scenes of their cleaning.
Quenee also recently launched a âCreate to Educateâ series on the nonprofit’s Instagram page, where a creative person who has a positive impact on the environment is featured, such as a surfer who creates surfboards. using recycled materials.
âTo change an entire community like Miami, there are so many different people who need to get involved to effectively create change in this huge city,â he says.
Some telltale things the volunteers found during the cleanups are a 1963 Bacardi bottle, a message in a bottle, and cruise ship ropes that weighed 900 pounds.
âIt’s all nylon, which is plastic,â Quenee says of the Strings. âOver time, if that broke, it would add up to 900 pounds of microplastics. “
Sendit4theSea Crew and volunteers
The Sendit4thesea crew consists of around seven main members. Most are former students of the MAST Academy and are in their twenties. Some current MAST students are also interns for the association.
In order to manage so many volunteers during cleanups, the core team implements flowcharts of different stations, such as registration and collection of materials. Core members then brief volunteers with general information on where all the plastic is coming from and the safety protocols to follow when picking up needles and sharps.
Salvador Horna, 16, senior at MAST, who resides in Coral Gables, is a regular volunteer with SendIt4TheSea’s beach cleanups at Bayfront Park and their mangrove planting project at MAST Academy.
âI loved the experience because I help my community and the environment, while doing fun activities with my friends,â he says.
He says cleanups are important for two reasons: âThey help the wildlife that are found near the coast by removing pollution from their ecosystem, and they give people a great opportunity to help the environment and teach them about it. importance of dealing with issues like Marine Pollution. “
He adds that the fun part of volunteering at a Sendit4thesea event is that the organization is very youth-centric.
âPersonally, I always go to their events with a friend or two and always find someone I know during these cleanups,â he says.
âThey always have fun little activities like slacklining that allow volunteers to relax after picking up the garbage. The organizers are very relaxed and understanding, and they will appreciate your efforts no matter how much trash you pick up, âhe adds.
The volunteers use giant sandbags for cleaning, which have been reused since the creation of the association, so as not to generate more plastic waste in the materials.
The gloves are washed after each cleaning, in order to also reduce the environmental footprint.
Operating costs – for permits, for new equipment if needed, for hand sanitizer and educational materials – run the nonprofit at $ 8,000 per year.
Environmental education in virtual reality
Sendit4thesea also hopes to raise funds for environmental education.
They have offered PowerPoint presentations to schools in the past on the importance of keeping Biscayne Bay and the surrounding area clean, but to keep young students engaged they are looking to step up their game.
The association hopes to introduce virtual reality presentations showing seagrass beds and mangrove forests around Biscayne Bay to downtown students through the use of 360-degree cameras.
âWe want to introduce them to the bay and allow them to experience it,â says Quenee. âThis is something we are definitely looking for funding for. “
The cardboard virtual reality glasses, which would give students the experience of an online field trip, cost $ 5 a pair.
Quenee says it can take up to six hours to edit a three-minute video, in addition to the time spent filming the location, which also increases costs.
Mangrove restoration project at the MAST Academy
Ellie Reyna, 17, of Brickell, is a senior at MAST. She is the intern project manager of the Sendit4thesea mangrove restoration project at MAST.
âThe mangrove restoration project involves a group of volunteers who build three mangrove nurseries, which will then be used to plant and promote propagules (young mangroves),â she says.
Once the propagules get big enough, they are taken out of the nursery and planted on the nature trail behind MAST Academy and other areas around Miami that need mangrove replanting, she says.
Volunteers have helped remove invasive species from the area surrounding Miami Marine Stadium, as these plants compete with mangroves for space and sunlight.
Reyna says the estimated cost of the mangrove restoration project is $ 7,000-9,000 per year, which covers materials, invasive species removal and monthly nursery site visits.
How to help
E-mail: [email protected]
Instagram: @ sendit4thesea
To donate to Sendit4thesea, click on the âDonateâ tab on their website. The website also lists upcoming cleanups and ways to volunteer.