Volunteers from the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) conducted cleanups last month that removed 1,602 pounds of trash from the environment.  

 A team of 10 individuals removed 447 pounds of trash which included a total of 809 debris items during the 2024 Ruth Cay Cleanup on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, just off of St. Croix.  The most common item was single-use plastic beverage bottles, of which 186 were removed. One of the highlights of this cleanup included the removal of a large, 240-pound industrial rope found along the south shore of the cay. 

On Feb. 24, 29 community volunteers, from two-years-old to 65 years young, participated in the 2024 St. Croix Great Mangrove Cleanup. Together these volunteers collected 2,683 debris items from along the mangrove shoreline in Altona Lagoon, removing 1,155 pounds of trash and lingering hurricane debris from the mangrove roots.  

The top three items removed were single-use beverage bottles (723 total; 319 plastics, 274 glass, and 130 metal cans), food wrappers (334) and plastic bottle caps (244). There were also many weird finds, including two full-size bathtubs, a washing machine, and children’s toys (i.e., water guns and half of a toy crocodile head). “In the U.S. Virgin Islands, most marine debris comes from sources on land,” said Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes, research associate professor of Watershed Ecology at UVI. “The good news is that community members can make a big difference when it comes to reducing marine debris by limiting their use of single-use items, re-using items, or making sure that items that must be thrown away end up in the proper waste receptacle, rather than the environment.” 

 The 2024 St. Croix Great Mangrove Cleanup was sponsored by the University of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Virgin Islands EPSCoR, Atlantic Trucking, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Marine Debris Program.  

 The event builds on the success of previous Great Mangrove Cleanups that have occurred on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, since 2018. Factoring in the 2024 events, these cleanups have engaged hundreds of volunteers who removed more than 14 tons of marine debris (28,161 lbs.) from territorial shorelines. 

 “I love knowing I can make an immediate difference at these cleanups while providing long-term benefits for mangroves and marine life,” said UVI undergraduate student, Savannah Carroll who participated in the St. Croix events.  

Join the team for the St. John and St. Thomas Great Mangrove Cleanups on Saturday March 9, and April 20 in Coral Bay and Vessup Bay along the National Park Road in Red Hook, respectively. Community service hours are available for these events. 

To learn more about marine debris cleanup efforts in the Territory please contact Zola Roper at or visit to sign up for the March and April events.