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Volunteers Clean Kennedy Space Center's Beach
Volunteers pick up trash from Kennedy Space Center beaches

Image above: An item of trash is found on Kennedy Space Center's beach. Photo credit: NASA
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A volunteer picks up a shoe during the Kennedy Space Center beach clean-up

Image above: A volunteer picks up a shoe during the Kennedy Space Center beach clean-up. Photo credit: NASA
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Volunteers scour Kennedy Space Center beaches for trash

Image above: Volunteers scour Kennedy Space Center beaches for trash. Photo credit: NASA
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Of the 72 miles of beach that line the eastern side of Brevard County, Fla., about six of those miles line NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

On Sept. 14, about 120 volunteers from the Kennedy workforce, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Ocean Conservancy spent several hours scouring the sand for items that had washed ashore.

Unlike what might be found along a public beach, all of the debris that litters Kennedy's restricted beaches usually washes up from items discarded at sea.

They collected about 6,000 items including syringes, aerosol cans, gasoline and a flare.

It was the first time Kennedy had partnered with the Ocean Conservancy's International cleanup efforts. The combined effort was supported through donations from about 20 sponsors.

Like other beach cleanups, the volunteers found a mother lode of stray items, from trash tossed overboard by cruise passengers to messages in bottles launched from faraway places. Also, a surprisingly large number of shoes were found.

"I think it's a good idea and good for the environment," said Diane Fleming of the Marshall Resident Office at Kennedy Space Center. "I was surprised at the amount of trash we found out here."

The volunteers collected about 60 large bags of trash between three sites, much of which was being recycled. This includes 180 pounds of plastic, 240 pounds of glass and one pound of aluminum.

Trash can disturb a sensitive nesting ground for several types of sea turtles.

With the center's beaches part of the No. 1 nesting area in the Western Hemisphere for loggerhead sea turtles, it is important to understand the environmental impact of trash and debris along the coast.

"When the turtles come up, we want to reduce any type of obstructions that might get in their way," said Susan Waldron, a volunteer for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. "When the turtles leave, we want to reduce anything they might get tangled up in."

In the end, the success of the cleanup can't be measured just by the debris collected, but also by the heightened awareness.

Waldron said, "We found a lot of lollipop sticks . . . which proves that anytime you have an opportunity to pick up human trash, it's worth it."
Frank Ochoa-Gonzales
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center