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Local News

Okaloosa Borrow Bins Aim To Keep Beaches Clean

Last week, Destin and Fort Walton Beach launched the Beach Borrow Bins and Trash Pickup Project, which is set to revolutionize the way the community and tourists interact with local beaches. The pilot borrow bin station was installed behind Anglers on Okaloosa island, and is now open to the public for use.

"The borrow bins are being used for trash pickup and also for donating used, reusable items. Chairs, umbrellas, a lot of beach toys are left on the beach."

Jason Harwell, founder of Erase the Trace Okaloosa, emphasizes that the bins are now in the hands of the community to use.

"You use it how you feel it's needed. If you go to the beach and you see the hand baskets and you feel the need to go and pick up trash on a walk, then that's good. If you wanna use them for your personal trash while you are on the beach and then go dump it when you leave, that's good.”

Harwell points out that the borrow bin stations give the community more opportunity to conduct cleanups outside of designated events.

“You don't have to wait for us to call the community together to clean up. If you see the trash, pick up the trash. If it's too big of a problem, give us a call and we will give you some help."

Local nonprofits, such as like Erase the Trace Okaloosa and Trees on the Coast, came together with the local government to roll out this initiative, which if successful will help to reduce waste across all Destin and Fort Walton Beach water accesses.

Bobby Wagner, founder of Trees on the Coast which donated the necessary materials and
signage for the borrow bins, explains the system.

"That's what I'm very excited about. Not only do we have the beach baskets for people to go out and take a walk and help us pick up the litter, but some of that litter is just toys that don't have a home anymore. So now the borrow bins allow us to reuse some of the trash that we find out there.”

Wagner gets to a crucial goal of this project: plastic waste reduction.

“It promotes less plastic, and less people going to the store to buy toys they are only going to use for a couple days before they go home.”

Alex Fogg, coastal resource manager for Destin and Fort Walton Beach, hopes the borrow bins will be a success. He hopes the project extending past Okaloosa Island.

"We are about a week in and things are looking pretty good. So hopefully we are going to be able to expand this over the next few weeks to pretty much all the beach access ways on Okaloosa Island and then over Destin at some of the other beach access ways over there."

The borrow bins will help to preserve the natural beauty of local beaches, but the bins will also help local wildlife to thrive, Fogg said.

"These bins are important to get trash off the beach, but also for getting those chairs and toys off of the beach because they can impact sea turtles.”

Sea turtles, whose nesting season runs from March 1st to Oct. 31, require a shoreline free from trash and other obstacles in order to avoid entrapment, injury, and disorientation during nesting and hatching.

“Sea turtles need to be able to move from their nest to offshore and the moms need to be able to make it up onto the beach without getting stuck and prevented from nesting."

Officials hope that the Borrow Bins and Trash Pickup Project will combat ocean-bound plastic pollution at a local and individual level, and empower the Okaloosa community to pitch in to preserve the Emerald Coast.

"If the project goes well, every time you go to the beach you are going to see these borrow bins and these baskets and hopefully the public will continue to use these."

To find out more about the borrow bins and their locations, contact the Destin - Fort Walton Beach Welcome Center at (800) 322- 3319. To get involved with volunteer clean-up events contact Erase the Trace Okaloosa at 737 - 3131 and visit Trees on the Coast at
treesonthecoast.com.