INDIAN RIVER COUNTY ― In February of 2020, the Solid Waste Disposal District, Indian River County Parks and Recreation, and the nonprofit Coastal Connections began the Beach Basket Program, a joint project to encourage beach visitors to grab a basket at the entrances to three county beaches and use them to pick up trash on the beach.
The basket pickup points were located near trash receptacles, so people leaving the beaches can easily dump the trash they’ve collected before returning the basket.
At the July 13 County Commission meeting, the SWDD gave a positive review of the program’s first 17 months. According to SWDD Recycling Education and Marketing Coordinator Susan Flak, who prepared the agency’s update presented to the commissioners, the successful program will be expanded to all 13 beach parks within Indian River County.
Initially, beach basket stations were installed at Tracking Station, Round Island, and Wabasso Beach parks. Four baskets were available at each park.
In June 2020, the program was expanded by adding baskets at five city beach access points, including Jaycee, Sexton Plaza, Humiston, Flamevine, and South Beach Park.
Coastal Connections, a 501(c)(3) Vero Beach‐based nonprofit organization, cleans the baskets weekly and reports on their use.
According to Ms. Flak, the program has encountered only a few relatively minor problems. One is the occasional disappearance of baskets. A total of 35 baskets have disappeared, averaging 8.75 baskets per quarter, with the highest rate of loss at Sexton Plaza. The baskets cost just under $9 each, so Ms. Flak estimated a need for $89/quarter, or $360/year, to maintain the baskets and stations needed for the program. That is less than $1/day for a program that seems to be contributing to the cleanup of Indian River County beaches.
Another problem has been baskets from one beach access point being found at another beach access point. For example, a basket that was installed at Humiston was found at South Beach Park, and another basket from Humiston was found at Jaycee Park. While this presents a hassle for Coastal Connections volunteers to return baskets to their proper location, the upside is that this may indicate people using the baskets to pick up trash along very long stretches of beach.
The final problem identified involved the metal handles on the original baskets, which began to show signs of rust after only three months. New baskets will soon be installed with plastic handles.
According to Ms. Flak, the program has been well received, with positive comments from beach visitors and inquiries about establishing similar programs from Broward County and Okaloosa County.
The SWDD did not request any new funding for the program, which is part of the department’s recycling budget, funded from SWDD assessments and user fees.
This year, new basket stations will be installed at five more county beach parks: Ambersands, Goldensand, Treasure Shores, Seagrape Trail, and Turtle Trail. Once those are all installed, the beach basket program will be available at all county and city beach parks within the county’s 22.4 miles of coastline.
“Based on the positive impact this project has had within our community and on our environment, along with the low‐budget expense of the project, the Beach Basket Program will become a permanent resource available at all 13 beach parks within Indian River County,” Ms. Flak told the county commissioners.