Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Daily Ocean: Day 68

Ok... so... last night, we did our 68th beach clean up at Access 15.  I have so many emotions running through me as I think about the disaster zone that was Wrightsville Beach.  We parked at access 16 and before we even got on the beach... I knew it was going to be bad.  The trash can was overflowing... trash was littered all over the parking lot.  And what makes me so frustrated is that we saw the same scene on our 58th clean up.  Completely obvious fact:  In order for trash cans to work... they NEED to be emptied regularly!!!  
But the mess wasn't contained to the parking lot.  (deep breath)  I'm thankful that we have the 3 best helpers EVER.  Just look at my kids... my oldest is using a littered beach bucket and filling it with cigarette butts (fyi... my kids picked up 469 cigarette butts on their own!!), my daughter following (she's the inspector), and my youngest... arms full.  When he got to me he said, "Mom this one has coffee."
So... as we walked... I kept thinking to myself... "WHY???"  I mean really... how can people come to the beach and leave it so trashed??  My son wonders the same thing.  Here he is holding a plastic bag full of trash that he found under Johnnie Mercer's Pier.  (The bag and it's contents were thrown away and are not included in the litter weight.) 
And so... I can wonder "why" all day long... I want to cry thinking about it... and so I can keep thinking about the "why"... but the conclusion that I'm coming to is that the "why" people litter really isn't important.  What's MORE important is giving people the reasons "why" they need to take care of the beach.  Showing them the problem. 

Here's a thought.  There are fines in place for littering.  Wrightsville Beach has a $500 fine for littering.  Guess what?!? It's obviously NOT working.  In order for a fine to work, it has to be enforced. It doesn't take a genius to notice that it's not being enforced.  (But... I tell you what... people are quick to fill the parking meters for fear of getting a parking ticket... BECAUSE... parking at WB is enforced to the extreme!!!)  
Another thought that I had while going through all of the litter is that litter fines are great and all... but they don't really teach anything of real value.  What if there were people all over the beach catching litterers in action.  No warning... they get a ticket and have to do community service.  Litterers should be required to do a beach clean up... because then and only then will they understand the enormity of the problem.  (I'd gladly volunteer to have the litterbugs come with us on our beach clean ups.)
Oh... I almost forgot.  I (think) that I want to wear one of those sandwich signs.  On one side, it would say something like "Take Your Trash With You" ... hmmm... "Love The Beach. Don't Litter."  And on the other side it would say, "The Beach is NOT an Ashtray" or "Cigarette butts are litter, too."  (I'm torn)
"Awareness is the first step to creating change in any situation, without it, there would be no desire for change."

20 minutes on May 22, 2011 at Access 15
Cigarette butts: 843
14 aluminum cans, 3 plastic bags, 13 plastic bottles, 29 straws (12 from juice boxes), 24 plastic caps, 4 pairs of shoes... and a whole bunch of other plastic crap.
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 68 days: