Sophie Ringel Gathers Over 81,850 Pounds of Trash to Clean Miami Beyond the Beach

Originally from Germany, in 2015, Sophie Ringel came to Miami for a girlfriend getaway vacation. After falling in love and marrying, she decided to stay in Miami. During her daily walks with her husband along Miami Beach, they both loved seeing fine-combed, blue-white lace waves come in like the dancing hem of a long flowing gown, and walking on the gentle hues of gold sand. However, she noticed large amounts of plastic and trash, and she decided to do something about it. 
“Even though it’s our relax time, I can’t just unsee and ignore when we need to help our marine life and our ecosystem,” said Ringel. “I saw someone else picking up trash and we connected. We thought to meet that next Tuesday and pick up trash together and from there, things changed.”
Armed with bags, gloves, litter pickers, and a strong sense of purpose, Sophie Ringel didn’t intend for her beach cleanups to gain over 10,200 volunteers. Especially, since it started with an Instagram photo of just her and another woman. She shared and tagged that photo on Miami’s social media accounts to spread awareness.
“Lifestyle Miami shared that photo,” said Ringel. “We met on another Tuesday, shared another photo, and more people reached out. Week-by-week we kept growing and the community was engaged, inspired, and enthused.”
After moving to Miami Beach in 2019, an eco-friendly army formed and the 501c3 nonprofit organization, Clean Miami Beach, was born with Ringel as their founder.
“We hit a thousand followers on Instagram and I called my mom saying Oh my God,” said Ringel. “I was amazed and people were inspired to be a change-maker.”
With a focus on single-use plastic awareness, Clean Miami Beach has the goal to free natural habitats of pollutants and educate. In 2022, they hosted 70 beach cleanups and they have two cleanups a month. The eco-warriors have 70 to 80 cleanups a year and they’re currently at 261 with volunteers includingCity officials, the Miami Beach Police Department Officers, students, teachers, and executives. 
“We even have programs only for kids and cleanups just for kids,” said Ringel.
“We talk about their favorite sea animals, how animals mistake trash items for food, and they all become little ocean heroes.”
Clean Miami Beach has gathered over 81,850 pounds of trash, with some outlandish items.
“We’ve come across a hospital blood bag,” said Ringel. “A roulette table, voodoo dolls, a toilet seat, Christmas lights, a refrigerator, a microwave, and adult toys and condoms.”
However, amongst the sandcastles, and the sun rays on the surface of the water creating an impression of glittering diamonds, the main issue is single-use plastic. Ringel’s goal is to inform how everyone can reuse, re-purpose, and reduce the consumption of plastic.
“Bottle caps, plastic bottles, and in some areas it’s barley soil anymore,” said Ringel. “It’s broken-down pieces of plastic. We’ve known about the harmful effects of plastic pollution for a while now in our wildlife. But newer studies have shown that these microplastics are being found in human blood. Scientistsestimate that we eat one credit card worth of microplastics every single week.”
With plastic littering beaches, swirling around the sea, and landing in the bellies of birds and marine life, Ringel also creates art out of the collected plastic. Ringel and volunteers also cleaned 600 pounds of litter from a Wynwood block in just one hour.
On Friday, May 12, the Lifestyle Miami Chargers overtook the Wall Warriors and won the Battle Court Season title. Each Battle Court team selected a local non-profit to benefit over the seasonand Clean Miami Beach gained the $50,000 donation. 
“We now have an office where we can create art workshops and educate our community,” said Ringel. “Especially kids. I never thought a vacation to Miami would change my life and bring people together to help our community. It’s all been life-changing for us.”

Instagram Nile Fortner: @nile_fortner

Instagram Clean Miami Beach: @cleanmiamibeach

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