PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Two people with the group "Plastic Symptoms" have trekked around the coast of Florida to raise awareness on the dangers and amount of plastics on Florida's shorelines.
The two say any plastic found in the water can be harmful to humans and marine life. (WJHG/WECP)
For the past four months, Plastic Symptoms Founder Bryan Galvin and Heather Bolint have made a more than 1,200-mile trek down Florida's coastline raising awareness on plastics found along the shore, while picking up as much as they can. Monday they made their way through Panama City Beach.
They say it's a problem that extends beyond the state.
"It's not only the plastics that we're using here and consuming here it's the plastics that are washing up globally. We're finding a lot of stuff from the Caribbean islands, from Haiti, from the Dominican [Republic]. We're also finding stuff from Central and South America," Galvin said.
The two say any plastic found in the water can be harmful to humans and marine life.
Galvin said, "Coming through the bay area here, we're actually finding bit plastics by sea turtles. Lots of things that we've found, probably about 90 percent of everything we've picked up in the last three days has bite marks on it."
The group made a similar trek in 2017 down Florida's east coast., but ramped up the miles this year, collecting almost 2,500 pounds of trash along the way.
Heather Bolint of Plastic Symptoms said, "I think it's really imperative that Florida citizens take initiative on this and understand plastic is really affecting our collective environment and that we need to keep our beaches healthy."
So what can locals and visitors do to help? The group says simply saying no to single-use plastics and leaving only your footprints will create a huge impact in the long run.
Galvin said, "If we could substitute things like a Ziploc bag for wax paper again and wrap your sandwich in paper instead of a plastic bag."
The group's ultimate goal is to get ahead of the problem by stopping the creation of any new plastics due to how long they remain in the environment.
Galvin explained, "Every single piece of plastic you have ever touched in your lifetime, thrown away, recycled or not, it's still out there in the environment. So no matter what you do with those plastics, they're still out there."
Bolint added, "We're really trying to stop this from becoming a worse situation and lingering in the environment. We really want to nip it in the bud and stop the source of it."
Galvin and Bolint's journey hasn't always been easy, but say the message will always be important.
"You don't have to give up everything that you love to make a huge impact on the environment," said Galvin.
During the journey the two have been camping in state parks, staying with friends, or using a small camper.
For the plastics they can't carry, they mark and log where they found them.
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