There’s something you see every day but you may look right past it. Trash is piling up on the sides of roads and in canals and the place it stops is costing you.
At a distance, the canal near Kathy Silverio’s home has loads of charm. It’s one of the reasons she chose it as her home.
“It's an amazing combination of birds and fish and sometimes we see alligators,” she explained.
On closer inspection; however, the canal also has loads of trash. It’s bobbing in the water, caught in plant life below the surface, and jammed into the waterways that connect the canals at various turns.
Silverio and Robyn Halasz founded Sea Angels. The green-minded environmental group cleans beaches, recycling and upcycling what’s collected whenever possible. With the help of volunteers, the pair has picked up loads of plastic bottles, caps, straws, cigarette butts, hair extensions, toothbrushes and countless other items.
Noticing the problem in the canal near Silverio’s home, they turned their attention to the waterway.
“We had two rowboats ourselves that were full of trash,” Halasz said.
Now, a year and a half after the cleanup, the Sea Angels believe it’s time for the canal to be cleaned again.
There are miles of canals just like it across South Florida. Each of them is maintained privately or by a city, a county or state agency.
While the responsible parties differ, municipalities say the issue is the same: trash harms wildlife and jams up connections in waterways. The resulting problems cause issues that run the gamut and ultimately hit taxpayers’ wallets.
“You can actually have structural flooding in peoples’ houses,” explained Colin Groff, the Assistant City Manager for Public Services in the city of Boynton Beach.
In Boynton Beach, Groff says hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent each year on a fulltime team to clear catch basins. In six to eight months, they each look more like recycling bins than waterways.
“Everything from cans, bottles, engine parts, clothes, shoes. I’ve seen everything you can think of at one time or another in a storm system,” he said.
As the old saying goes, he’s seen everything and the kitchen sink.
“The kitchen sink, yes. I’ve seen a kitchen sink, shopping carts, you’d be amazed,” he said.
In Boynton Beach, every household pays $60 a year for the cleanup efforts. It is money Groff says would be saved if residents and guests took a few moments to pick up what’s blowing around.
While some items may be intentionally tossed into roads and canals, Groff believes the bulk comes from trash that’s not properly bundled before it’s hauled away from residences and businesses.
The Sea Angels say the city of Boynton Beach has been responsive in helping to gather refuse from canals, but it’s a job too big for any one group to tackle alone.
“The cities can't do everything. The states can't do everything. We need to do what we can to help clean the earth,” Silverio said.