Ocean park

Trash buckets will soon be available at Phipps Ocean Park

The Friends of Palm Beach group will add new amenities to a city beach early next month to encourage sunbathers to keep shorelines litter-free.

To kick off the pilot program approved by City Council in December, the organization, joined by local nonprofit Beach Bucket Foundation, will unveil two bucket stands at Phipps Ocean Park’s north and south public access points on February 5.

Two-tier stands are approximately 18 inches wide, 18 inches deep, and 3 feet tall. Each stand will hold two buckets and will be placed conveniently near the trash cans.

Beachgoers will soon be able to conduct their own beach cleanups, said Friends of Palm Beach founder Diane Buhler, who added that the group hadn’t been able to plan a big cleanup event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff members, she said, still clean the beaches daily.

The pause in community cleanups doesn’t mean litter suddenly stops piling up on beaches, Buhler said. The appearance of the beach, as well as the animals that live there, can be positively affected by removing a single piece of litter, she said.

Diane Buhler of Friends of Palm Beach holds up debris she and Palm Beach Public School third graders found while cleaning up the public beach near Clarke Avenue in February 2020. [DAMON HIGGINS/palmbeachdailynews.com]

“A cork in your bucket makes a huge difference to that turtle who might swallow it by mistake,” she said. “It’s not a question of the amount. People need to focus on making a difference every time they go out and pick something up.

“A waste is important for these animals here,” she said. “Birds eat on the beach, they live on nutrients… Trash gets in the way of that. Animals in the ocean ingest it and die.”

Palm Beach Friends collected 40,000 pounds and 444,000 trash in 2021, mostly plastic bottles, aluminum cans and household items, Buhler said. Face masks, COVID tests and gloves have also been found littering the coast for the past two years.

Andy Abbott, head of the Beach Bucket Foundation, said attendees can track how much trash they’ve collected by scanning a QR code on each bucket. The foundation has installed more than 45 bucket stations at beaches in Palm Beach County, including Ocean Reef Park in Riviera Beach, Juno Beach and Loggerhead Park in Jupiter.

“It’s nice to see we’ve made a difference,” Abbott said. “It’s to create awareness. Some people just don’t know we have a problem. They’re blind to it.”

The buckets are wrapped in logos and advertisements from local businesses and organizations that sponsor the stations in an effort to encourage residents to participate, Abbott said.

Friends of Palm Beach, Oxbridge Academy, the Palm Beach Citizens Association, and the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society are among the sponsors of the new bucket station.

Buhler’s goal is to make the Phipps Ocean Park program such a success that more stalls are set up throughout the city, ideally in Midtown and along Park Avenue. She wants residents and visitors to see the bucket station as a sign to clean up around them, whether they’re in a parking lot or walking along a sidewalk.

Despite efforts, “beach cleanups are not the answer,” she said. “They are unfortunately a small band-aid that we need now because of the waste that exists.”

It is also important that people become aware of the waste they produce on the beach.

“We have to refuse, reduce, reuse, then recycle,” Buhler said.

how to help

Those interested in helping with the cleanup effort can arrange to pick up buckets, tongs and trash bags by contacting Friends of Palm Beach at 561-507-0345.