Event organizers and volunteers count and weigh debris removed from mangroves in Red Hook, St. Thomas.

ST. THOMAS — More than 1,700 pounds of marine debris was recently collected along one-half mile of mangrove shoreline along the National Park Road in Red Hook. Half of the 54 volunteers, ages 7 to 59, were students from the University of the Virgin Islands, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Charlotte Amalie High School, Antilles, and Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy.

“This is an incredible amount of debris concentrated in such a short length of mangrove shoreline. To remove that much debris in just a few hours speaks to the hard work of our volunteers,” said Kristin Wilson Grimes from the UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Studies and project lead.

By number, the top three items removed were plastic beverage bottles (1,129), beverage cans (257), and glass beverage bottles (240). Weird finds included one pair of binoculars, an old Nokia flip phone, a chainsaw chain and a life-size cut-out of Ronald MacDonald.

“Over half the items we collected were beverage containers — plastic bottles, glass bottles, and beverage cans — and we collected nearly four times as many plastic beverage bottles than any other item. The good news is that it’s easy to prevent bottles from polluting our mangroves — use a refillable water bottle, re-use a bottle you already have rather than purchasing a new one, recycle your glass bottles at the new glass crushing project at UVI, or when you’re ready to throw a bottle away, make sure it ends up in a proper waste receptacle. These are easy things we can all do, that can add up to a big impact,” Grimes said.

The team plans additional mangrove cleanups on St. John and St. Croix in the coming months.