Tag Archive: Trying

Trying to Solve the Marine Debris Problem

A variety of plastics ends up in the Gulf. Each is a potential problem for marine life. Photo: Rick O’Connor

Since the early 1970’s, when Chief Iron Eyes Cody shed a tear on a television commercial, we have been trying to reduce the amount of solid waste found along our beaches and within our waters.   Though numerous agencies and civic groups, led by the Ocean Conservancy, have held beach and underwater clean ups over the last few decades, the problem still exist.


However, we can say this – the problems have changed. Many groups collect data while they collect the debris to determine what, and how much, has been collected.  This information can give folks an idea of what the major issues are.  Because of this data, aluminum can pull-tabs and glass bottles are not as common as they once were.  Communities saw they were a large problem and either removed them from the market or developed ordinances that banned them from beaches – this is certainly a success story.  There are agencies and researchers who compile solid waste data to let people know what they are throwing away.  Once we know this, we can be more effective at reducing marine debris.


Solid waste is not just a problem for coastal beaches; it is problem throughout society. Landfills will fill up, and communities will then need another location, or a new method, to dispose of it.  Though the human growth rate has declined from 1.23% to 1.11% in the last decade, we are still growing and are currently at 7.5 billion humans on the planet.  Each human will require resources to survive and, thus, will generate waste that will need to be disposed of.  According to a paper published in 1990, humans were generating about 550 pounds of solid waste/person/year, which generated 1.3 billion tons of solid waste each year.  In 2009 that increased to 2.3 billion tons.


So how much of this solid waste is being recycled?


According to the U.S. EPA, 258 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated in the United States in 2014. 89 million tons (34%) was recycled.  This is an increase from the 30% reported in many environmental science textbooks 10 years ago and <20% 20 years ago.  Some states are doing much better than the national average, Washington reports they are now recycling 51.4% of their solid waste, and some nations are recycling more than 90% – so things are improving but there is room for improvement.

Recycling trends in the United States.
Source: U.S. EPA

What is the situation in the Pensacola Bay area?


A non-profit organization called Ocean Hour cleans selected beaches for one hour every weekend.  The team coordinates volunteers to help collect the debris by providing buckets, tongs, and gloves; they also dispose of the waste.  Part of their mission is to provide data on what they are collecting so that the community is aware of what their largest problems are.  Based on their data the top three items reported by volunteers for each year were:


Year #1 Item #2 Item #3 Item


Cigarette butts Food wrappers Plastic bottles
2016 Plastic bottles Aluminum cans Cigarette butts


2017 (to date)


Cigarette butts Food wrappers Plastic and foam pieces


The graph produced from Ocean Hour’s data by Escambia County Division of Marine Resource Intern Ethan Barker, shows all of the items they have collected this year but the bulk of it is associated with smoking and eating. Marine biologist and artist Shelly Marshall used 1200 cigarette butts collected by the Ocean Hour team to create a 3-foot sea turtle she calls CIG.  She then used plastic bottles and plastic bottle caps, again collected by Ocean Hour, to create a 5-foot “bottle”nose dolphin called CAP.  Both of these pieces of marine debris art are displayed at different locations in the community, and at community events, to educate the public about our marine debris problems.

Marine debris collected by Ocean Hour during the first half of 2017.
Image: Ethan Barker

So what do we do about it?


That is really up to us. Again, agencies, researchers, and non-profits have been reporting on the problem for almost five decades now.  We will continue to produce waste, not much can be done there, but the question is what we will do with it.  The obvious answer is dispose of properly and recycle when we can.


Cigarette Butts

  • If you are a smoker, please dispose of your cigarette butt properly. There are “pocket ash trays” some folks use to keep the butt with them until they can find a place to dispose of it.

Food Wrappers – Foam

Much of the debris is related to eating – wrappers, plastic film, foam cups, straws, etc. Much of what we find is associated with this activity.

  • You can use your own cup and not the foam cups provided by food establishments
  • You can bring your own container to take leftovers home
  • If you have to purchase food and drink with all of the wrappers and foam, and I understand that there are times you must, then do your best to dispose of properly.

Ocean Hour will continue their efforts to remove the debris from area beaches. If you can, volunteer to help now and then.  You can find their schedule at https://www.oceanhourfl.com/.


If Ocean Hour is not conducting a clean up in your area, consider having your own. The Ocean Hour team can assist with the logistics of how to conduct one.


Again, we are not going to stop waste production – but maybe we can do better with waste disposal.


CIG is a sea turtle created by artist Shelly Marshall using 1200 cigarette butts collected by Ocean Hour in a 40 minute period on Pensacola Beach.
Photo: Cathy Holmes

CAP is a 4-5′ bottlenose dolphin created by artist Shelly Marshall from plastic bottles and bottle caps collected by Ocean Hour on Pensacola Beach.
Photo: Shelly Marshall





















Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures. 2017. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/smm/advancing-sustainable-materials-management-facts-and-figures.


Al-Salem, S.M., P. Lettieri, J. Baeyens. 2009. Recycling and Recovery Routes of Plastic Solid Waste (PSW): A Review. Waste Management. Vol 29 (10). Pp. 2625-2643. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X09002190.


Miller, G.T., S.E. Spoolman. 2011. Living in the Environment; Concepts, Connections, and Solutions. Brooks/Cole Publishing. Belmont CA. 16th edition.  Pp. 674.


Solid Waste Recycling. 2016. Department of Ecology. State of Washington. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/beyondwaste/bwprog_swDiverted.html.


Sullivan, C. 2017. Human Population Growth Creeps Back Up. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-population-growth-creeps-back-up/.


WorldoMeters. 2017. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/12/trying-to-solve-the-marine-debris-problem/

NISAW 2017: Trying to Stay Ahead of Beach Vitex

Beach Vitex Blossom. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor

Research shows that the most effective time to deal with an invasive species, both in terms of controlling or eradicating the species and money spent to do so, is early on…. What we call Early Detection Rapid Response. Beach vitex is a good candidate for this.

The first record for vitex in the Florida panhandle was in 2012. A local citizen in Gulf Breeze (Santa Rosa County) reported it on her beach and believed it may have come from Santa Rosa Island… it did.  The barrier island location was logged on EDDmaps and the Gulf Breeze plants were removed.  A quick survey of Florida on EDDmaps found that the only other location was in Duval County – 3 records there.  So this was not a wide spread plant in our state and could be a rare case for eradication.  That was until I surveyed Pensacola Beach on a bicycle and found 22 properties with it.  Soon afterwards, it was found on the shores of Perdido Bay and concern set it that it might be more widespread than we thought.

Vitex beginning to take over bike path on Pensacola Beach. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor

We tried to educate the property owners about the issue based on what we learned in South Carolina, where there is a state task force to battle the plant, and suggested methods of removal. Many property owners began the process, which can take several treatments over several years, and, with the help of University of West Florida students, removed all of the vitex from public land on Santa Rosa Island.  We were feeling good that we might still be able to eradicate this plant from our county… and then I went for a hike in the Gulf Islands National Seashore… yep… found more… almost 10,000 m2 of the plant.  UWF and Sea Grant have worked hard over the past year to remove these plants, and have removed all but one section.  Recently I received an email letting me know that it was found in Franklin County.  They have since logged this on EDDmaps and have begun the removal process.  However, this begs the question… where else might this plant be in the panhandle?


Beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia) is a salt tolerant plant that does well in dry sandy soils and full sun; it loves the beach.  We have found it in dune areas above the high tide line.  It was brought to the United States in the 1950’s for herbarium use.  By the 1980,’s the plant was used in landscaping and sold at nurseries.  It was first used in dune restoration in South Carolina after Hurricane Hugo, and that was when the trouble began.

Vitex growing at Gulf Islands National Seashore that has been removed. Photo credit: Rick O’Connor

The plant grows very aggressively during the warmer months. It out competes native dune plants and quickly takes over.  Growing 2-3 foot tall, this woody shrub has above ground rhizomes that can extend over 20 feet.  Secondary roots begin to grow from the nodes along these rhizomes and it quickly forms an entangled mat of vines that blocks sun for some of the native plants.  There has also been concern for nesting sea turtles.  The rhizomes can over take a nest while incubation is occurring and entrapping the hatchlings.  The plant has become such a problem in both North and South Carolina that a state task force has been developed to battle it.  Vitex can spread either vegetative or by seed, both can tolerate being in salt water and can be dispersed via tides and currents.  The plant has 1-2” ovate leaves and violet colored blossom, which can be seen in late spring and summer.  The leaves become a rusty gray color during winter.  The seeds, which are found in late summer and fall, are spherical and gray-purple in color.  Vitex produces many seeds, an estimated 22,000/m2, and – in addition to being carried by the tide – can be transported by birds as well.

Again, we are hoping that the plant has been discovered early enough to control, if not eradicate, it… HOWEVER, WE NEED YOUR HELP. If you think you may have seen this plant along your coasts, please contact your county Sea Grant Extension Agent for advice on how to manage it.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/02/nisaw-2017-trying-to-stay-ahead-of-beach-vitex/

Cotton Marketing News: Trying to Decipher the Numbers

Shurley header 4-1-16US cotton growers say they intend to plant 9.56 million acres this year.  We’ve likely all seen or heard the numbers by now so there’s little reason to plow that ground again.

Prior to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report yesterday, there were at least two other acreage estimates out there—an estimate by the National Cotton Council (9.1 million acres) and the number given by USDA economists at the annual Outlook Forum (9.4 million acres).

At the time the Council number was released (early February), some observers and analysts thought the number was on the low side.  But as cotton prices began to slide during February, some opinions were that maybe acreage could even be below the Council’s number.  But in late February, USDA economists at their annual Outlook Forum quoted the 9.4 million acre number.

Cotton prices have since hit rock bottom in late February-early March but have currently “improved” and stand at about 59 cents, despite acreage being above earlier projections.

Shurley cotton acreage 3-31-16

We all know that in the cotton business, perhaps more so than in any crop, acreage to actually be harvested and yield are ultimately much more important than acres planted.  This is largely because of weather and weather-related risk in Texas.

So, spending a little time discussing acres planted is fine for now, but it will all ultimately come down to what the weather does now (as this will determine what intended acres actually get planted) and what happens during the growing season.

A few observations:

Texas growers intend to plant 5.32 million acres.  This is 10.5% more than last year and about ¼ million acres more than the Council estimate back in early February.  This higher number was largely expected.  Texas growers “intended” to plant an even larger acreage (5.7 ma) last year, but were prevented from doing so by rain and delayed planting.  Even last year’s June Acreage report had Texas at 5.2 million acres before being revised further down again due to weather.  Many Texas growers have no or few alternatives to cotton, so even with lower cotton prices, 2016 acreage was expected to be consistent with what last year’s acreage could have been had the weather cooperated.

The Mid-South, in total, is expected up 46%.  This is huge.  As we all know, this area has largely shifted away from cotton during the past 5 or 6 years or so, due to better net returns from soybeans and corn.  Mid-South acreage was down 450,000 in 2015, so if these numbers hold, 2016 will be back to 2014 levels.  Because of the decline in cotton plantings in recent years, farms in the Mid-South have a lot of Generic Base compared to cotton acres planted.  Corn and soybeans planted and assigned to Generic Base are eligible for ARC/PLC.  To now make such a huge shift back to cotton, one factor might be that Mid-South growers could feel less confident about the corn and soybean outlook and/or ARC/PLC payments—despite cotton prices being down.

Of 17 cotton-producing states, acreage (intentions) are up in all but 3 states—North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.  Acreage is expected down 21%.  Growers in the Carolinas and Virginia are coming off a disastrous 2015 crop where yield and quality were decimated by rainfall.  Many growers are hurting financially. Corn is expected to be up in all 3 states.  Peanuts are expected up in North Carolina.  Reduced cotton plantings could be due to farmer’s decision to go with cheaper crops to grow—to have less invested and less at risk.  Some farmers could also have difficulty getting the credit needed.

In Georgia, the National Cotton Council estimate for 2016 called for a 5% reduction.  USDA acreage intentions estimate a 1.8% increase.  The Council acreage number was thought to be low.  This week’s USDA number looks closer to being more right.  The key to Georgia’s cotton acreage for this year was peanuts.  Would farmers again plant a high peanut acreage?  Peanut acreage intentions in Georgia are 730,000 acres—down 55,000 acres from 2015 planting.  A reduction of this magnitude is a bit surprising, given that Georgia has 753,000 acres of peanut base plus the eligibility for ARC/PLC for peanuts assigned to Generic Base.  Under the new farm bill, peanut acreage is thought to at least be equal to its own base.  When all is said and done, peanuts could be up a bit more and this could come from corn or soybeans but not likely cotton.

Shurley Generic Base

So, we have the estimates of what farmers say they intend to plant.  What will actually be planted depends on several factors.  Because of how the Loan and LDP/MLG program works, I wouldn’t expect a change in cotton prices to have much impact on cotton acres planted, unless Dec16 gets into the 60’s (around 65 to be more precise).

Any changes from the intentions are more likely to come from changes in the price of alternative crops like corn and soybeans.  Change would also be due to the availability of contracts and storage in peanut-producing states.

Weather will also be a factor.  If wet field conditions persist here in Georgia, this would push us past the optimal planting times for corn, and that acreage could shift likely to cotton or peanuts.  Elsewhere, rain and wet conditions could shift cotton acres to soybeans.


Cotton News SponsorDon Shurley, University of Georgia

229-386-3512 / donshur@uga.edu



Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/09/cotton-marketing-news-trying-to-decipher-the-numbers/

Cotton Marketing News: On the Ropes, But Trying to Hold On

Cotton Marketing News HeaderDon Shurley, University of Georgia

The past few weeks have not been kind to cotton. Prices (Dec15 futures) have broken down through that important “trend of increasing support” line and have threatened to move lower. Some analysts believe we are headed to the upper 50’s but, thus far cotton has fallen mightily but is trying to hold on. Today’s USDA numbers may act like the referee stepping in to stop the damage just in time.

Cotton has been hit by a barrage of negative news lately and one has to wonder how much longer prices can hang on. The January low close at 61.50 has been threatened. If prices can manage to stay above this January low, it will be a positive sign to say the least. Breaking through this “floor” could really get the bears roaring and send us even lower. Today’s numbers don’t solve all of cotton’s ills but it may keep the roaring bears at bay for now. The way is this market has been going, we take all the help we can get.Shurley Cotton Market Chart

I have long said that one cure for falling prices is buying. It is thought that this move lower, now and if/when it happens again, may result in increased buying/exports. Perhaps that will provide the new support needed to keep prices from moving even lower and eventually push prices a bit higher.

Prices will be driven by US crop conditions and outlook, China and global economic concerns, and exports. Today’s USDA production and supply/demand numbers are a shock and largely unexpected and should provide some boost and support for prices, even if it may end up to be short-lived. Dec15 is up almost 300 points (almost 3 cents/lb) on the news.

USDA’s August estimates, released today, are the first numbers for the new crop year based on actual producer survey. The US crop is now estimated at 13.08 million bales—down from the previous estimate of 14.5 million bales. Most expected the crop to be larger, not smaller than 14.5.

US acreage planted was reduced from 9.0 to 8.9 million acres and more importantly, acres to be harvested was dropped 610K acres. Average yield is expected to be 795 lbs/acre—down from 819 lbs in the July estimate.

As expected, exports from the 2014 crop year were increased another 200K bales. There was a 100K bale reduction in the 2014 crop year beginning stocks and a 200K bales increase in the “unaccounted” number—so, in a bit of a surprise, US beginning stocks on hand going in to this 2015 crop year were lowered a rather significant ½ million bales.

This ½ million bale decline plus the reduced US new crop estimate, cuts total available US supply by almost 2 million bales. But not all was good for prices—expected exports for the 2015 crop year were lowered 800K bales. This reflects less available supply and concerns about China and their need for imports. The US average price of cotton for the 2015 crop was increased from 62 cents (a range of 54 to 70 cents) to 65 cents (a range of 58 to 72 cents).

The expected 2015 China crop was reduced; India was reduced. Total World production is now estimated at 109 million bales—down about 2½ million bales from the July estimate. World usage is estimated at 114.65 million bales—up slightly from July despite a ½ million bale reduction in China’s expected use. World 2015-16 projected ending stocks were reduced 3 million bales—China down ½ million bales from the July estimate.

There’s something inconsistent about recent slide in prices and the increase in expected price range for this year’s crop. Today’s numbers, judging strictly by the market’s reaction today, should provide some breathing room and a little relief from the bearish pressures—but there are still many unknowns and pitfalls. There are growing concerns about China’s economy and this week the People’s Bank of China decided to devalue the Yuan.

For now, these numbers are like the referee stepping in and getting cotton off the ropes. But the fight continues. As we progress to harvest, prices will depend on any further revisions in the US and foreign crops and the prospect for exports. Premiums for fiber quality are still expected to be good.

Don Shurley, University of Georgia
229-386-3512 / donshur@uga.edu


Cotton News Sponsor



Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/08/15/cotton-marketing-news-on-the-ropes-but-trying-to-hold-on/