Hurricane Dorian’s center stayed offshore of South Carolina, but the storm’s waves and winds pushed trash onto beaches, marshes and into tidal waterways.

Getting to know the Constitution

The 31st annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep on Saturday, Sept. 21, offers a chance to remove debris from those areas and from inland waterways.

Each year thousands of people volunteer for the sweep, South Carolina’s largest one-day litter cleanup of beaches, marshes and waterways. From 9 a.m. until noon, groups spread out on foot or in boats from the various cleanup sites.

Teaching rules by which we should live

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium partners with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to organize the statewide event, which is held in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Anyone can participate – individuals, families, schools, youth groups, civic and conservation clubs and businesses.

Recent hurricane seasons have seen volunteers remove all manner of debris, including sections of breakaway docks. But it is the “routine” litter collected that tells a story.

Data from Beach Sweep/River Sweep events indicate South Carolina’s aquatic litter problem is closely tied to the careless disposal of everyday items such as cigarette butts and the type of things one might take to the beach or lake to eat and drink.

Red lights not made for running

Plastics and our throwaway lifestyle are top culprits. The very thing that makes such material useful to life – it is lightweight and durable – makes it a menace when disposed of improperly in waterways. It floats and is not readily biodegradable.

Cigarette butts are the most-often reported items, followed by foamed items, plastic pieces, metal beverage cans, plastic food bags/wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic caps/lids, plastic straws, miscellaneous plastics, glass beverage bottles, paper pieces and plastic cups/utensils.

Can you imagine what our rivers would be like now — with so many more people and so much more waste – if people still disposed of trash and garbage in the same way as they once did? And volunteers and others did not pick up tons of trash each year? The waterways would be unusable.

Enforcement cannot prevent the trashiness. Responsibility is the key and it begins with every individual.

Caring is another way to make things better. The thousands of volunteers with Beach Sweep/River Sweep prove it. In the cleanup’s 30-year history, more than 1,200 tons of litter have been collected, and much of it was recycled. Clearing the state’s beaches and rivers of litter: Clearly worthwhile.

To participate in coastal counties, visit https://www.scseagrant.org/bsrs-sites or contact Susan Ferris Hill at 843-953-2092 or susan.ferris.hill@scseagrant.org. To participate in inland counties, visit http://www.dnr.sc.gov/bsrs/sites.html or contact Bill Marshall at 803-734-9096 or marshallb@dnr.sc.gov.

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