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I.CARE’s 2nd Annual Trash Derby: Putting Hope in Our Hands

Join the Florida Keys for the largest-ever marine debris cleanup event and festival May 2-5, 2024
By Tiffany Duong | Updated On December 6, 2023
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I.CARE’s 2nd Annual Trash Derby: Putting Hope in Our Hands

A group of people on a boat

The Key Dives’ boat celebrated cleaning up the seas and newly-certifying two brothers, 12 and 14-years-old!

Key Dives

“I don’t think any one entity has ever been so crazy as to pull something off like this,” says I.CARE co-founder Michael Goldberg. “It’s going to be a blast. Let’s go have some fun helping our ocean!”

The CNN Top 10 Hero and his Islamorada-based coral restoration non-profit will host the I.CARE 2nd Annual Trash Derby from May 2 to 5, 2024. The Florida Keys-wide, weekend-long contest and celebration plans to “Triumph over Trash” by tackling the overwhelming amount of marine debris on local shorelines and reefs. Anyone can get involved by cleaning the shoreline by land and/or the water through Dives Against Debris, from Key Largo to Key West.

Last year’s inaugural event set the record for the biggest-ever marine debris clean-up in the Florida Keys, with nearly 13,000 pounds of trash cleaned up. This year, Goldberg wants to double participation, with a goal of over 500 registrants. To get there, I.CARE is working with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, PADI AWARE and other sponsors to make registration completely FREE. This means the Derby becomes accessible for all, plus, every participant has the chance to win some pretty cool dive gear, Goldberg adds.

“Most importantly, I believe this event will help bring attention to the issues facing our coral reefs and make I.CARE a household name nationwide,” he says. “All divers will know they can come down this week–and any week of the year–to help us restore our coral reefs.”

Throughout the year, I.CARE trains locals and tourists to become citizen scientists restoring the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. In fact, 95% of I.CARE’s coral restoration work is done by hand by recreational divers with partner dive shops. This community-based model places divers at the forefront of cutting-edge coral restoration science. It also helps the nonprofit accomplish a ton of vital work. With divers’ help, I.CARE transplanted over 15,000 endangered corals and educated over 2,500 participants about the importance of reefs worldwide in its first two years. It’s a win-win-win-win model for the non-profit, divers, the Florida Keys community overall, and, of course, the incredible coral reef underpinning it all.

A group of scuba divers in the water

Divers with Florida Keys Dive Center complete a Dive Against Debris for the 2023 Trash Derby

Morris Diving and Photography

So, why is a coral organization involved with marine debris cleanup?

Debris-free reefs bolster coral restoration efforts by providing a “clean slate” for divers to transplant corals onto, explains I.CARE Trash Derby Coordinator Amanda Hudon. Trash in the marine environment like fishing line, traps and plastic bags also abrades, smashes or otherwise damages fragile corals, she adds. So, the efforts are inextricably linked. Furthermore, plastic trash also harms marine life, entangling or choking sea turtles, dolphins, whales and birds.

“I.CARE is going the extra mile by hosting the annual I.CARE Trash Derby to remove potentially damaging debris,” Hudon adds. “It gives us a reason to come together to better our environment…. Getting everyone involved in taking care of our reefs is what it’s all about.” The event will also serve as a fundraiser for I.CARE to continue its critical work.

There’s a dual land-and-sea focus to the Trash Derby because, as PADI AWARE Community and Campaigns Manager Jack Fishman explains, the debris found in each place differs. “Beach clean-ups solve one issue, and Dives Against Debris solve another. The research shows this, clearly. Both are vital.”

A group of people posing for a photo

The Key Dives team hauled in over 400 pounds during Day 1 of the 2023 Trash Derby

Morris Diving and Photography

As a bonus, all debris collected will be sorted, counted and reported into global marine debris databases. Therefore, the impact of the event will go far beyond the days spent cleaning the waters, Fishman adds.

He explains, “Dive Against Debris is one of the most efficient monitoring and informing systems for local governments. Dive Against Debris simultaneously trains people in the removal and reporting of marine debris, and also helps identify trends in marine debris over time. This info helps drive real policy changes at a high level.”

He concludes, “We’re all doing big, important work. Events like the Trash Derby help to raise awareness that anyone can get involved and help, bring community stakeholders together and create education and training that reinforces our shared values–like protecting the environment. These events are the catalysts that make the work we’re already doing more valuable and impactful.”

A couple of people cleaning up trash

Surfrider Florida Keys volunteers sort various trash and plastics found in the mangroves in Marathon during their land cleanup.

Surfrider, Florida Keys Chapter

How to register:

Right now is the time to register. Complete by land (walk the shoreline, use SUPs/kayaks or join organizations hosting land-based clean-ups), using private watercrafts or with participating local dive shops. Registration is FREE for everyone online at

2024 Schedule

  • May 2, 6pm: team leader meeting
  • May 3-4, sunrise to sunset: debris collection
  • May 5, 12pm: FREE festival, including awards, raffles, food, music, and vendors