Beach Sweeps yield Less plastic on beach this year following plastic bag ban

By Lorne Chambers | Editor

With the tourist season over, some local organizations are helping clean up Folly Beach. Organized by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Beach Sweep/River Sweep is South Carolina’s largest one-day volunteer cleanup event of its kind and has been held annually since 1988.

Always held the third week in September, this year’s sweep had to be moved to Oct. 21 because of Hurricane Irma. Thousands of South Carolinians turned out this year to clear beaches, rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamps of aquatic debris. The Sweep takes place in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy. Once the Sweep is over, the Ocean Conservancy tallies all of the debris data.

The biggest culprit again this year was cigarette butts with more than 35,000 picked up from South Carolina Beaches. Folly’s numbers might have even been higher had a group from Charleston Scuba not already picked up more than 70 pounds of trash just a couple weeks prior. Charleston Scuba had scheduled to do an underwater clean up offshore, but due to rough seas, the charter was canceled.  “We didn’t want to waste clean up efforts, so we decided to do an impromptu beach sweep of Folly on Saturday, Sept 30,”said Charleston Scuba instructor Michelle Taliercio. The Charleston Scuba crew did submit the cleanup data to the Ocean Conservancy for their data.

Comparing the 2017 data with previous years, Susan Ferris Hill, the Coastal Coordinator for the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium’s Beach Sweep/River Sweep, says she has seen a decrease in plastic products since Folly’s ban on plastic bags. “There was considerably less plastic of any kind (bags, beverage bottles, cups, etc.) and styrofoam take-out containers, which is great,” said Hill.

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