It started in 2013, a quiet unpublicized effort, 75 young kids and a transplanted New Yorker came across the Palm Beach bridges with a mission – clean up our beaches and ocean.
This is perhaps the most prized oceanfront land in all America. Elegant mansions overlooking emerald green waters, beaches that attract thousands of residents and tourists; but, there is a problem.
“At its worst, blood vials, hypodermic needles, IVs,” said Diane Buhler, founder of Friends of Palm Beach. “From where? My theory, and its being backed up by drift studies, is that it is coming in from the Caribbean, the Islands.”
That’s right, medical waste. Dangerous stuff caught in the swift south to north Gulf Stream current.
“The Gulf Stream is only four nautical miles from here,” said Ms. Buhler. “So it comes up and the winds bring it right in.”
Ms. Buhler doesn’t live in Palm Beach. But she is a crusader for the health of our beaches and by extension the people who enjoy them. And it’s hands on – her dedicated teams are everywhere manually picking up trash out of the seaweed, in the dune line, and on the open beach.
“We’re cleaning the beaches and trespassing for years now,” she said.
The team removes 75 to a 100 pounds of mostly plastic a day from Sloan’s Curve north to the Inlet. The genesis of the nonprofit, grass roots, from the heart effort, began for Ms. Buhler with a life changing event.
“I had been diving down here 25 years,” said Ms. Buhler. “After 9/11 I lost two friends and I spent three months at Ground Zero. I moved here to heal and I found an ocean and a beach that needed healing. I have a sixth sense to find micro plastics, the smaller pieces of what was once a bottle. The tractors are riding up and down and crushing this stuff.”
“The crabs are one of my best helpers. They are about four to six feet down making their little tunnels and they’re excavating. So around crab holes, little plastic pieces everywhere, including once a child’s toothbrush. They don’t want it here, it’s their world.”
But a small army of people who care and the creatures who inhabit the beach aren’t enough.
“Humans are the ones who started all of this and humans are the ones who can stop it,” said Ms. Buhler. “Clean air, clean water, we are all one on this planet, we have to do what we can.”
Ms. Diane was there last week encouraging the Palm Beach Town Council to start implementing bans on single-use plastic bags, polystyrene containers, and plastic straws and stirrers — all of which do not fully degrade, litter the environment, and are harmful to animals that ingest them.
Ms. Buhler was recognized with a Kunkel Award from the Civic Association at a previous Annual Meeting.