Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 150

Have you ever stood at the edge of the beach and looked around you only to wonder why no one saw what you saw?  I do this all the time.  Of course, I'm not wondering if anyone thinks this place is a place worth visiting (that's obvious... because since they're there, they do).  I always wonder how people can not see the trash right next to them... or if they do... how they can do nothing?
While my husband and I were picking up trash on the beach, my husband was asked if he worked for the town (no) and if he was picking up trash (yes).  The person that asked the latter question tried to give my husband her trash, to which he let her know that he was picking up litter and with a smile he told her that she still had a chance to do the right thing.  This isn't the first time that people have tried to hand their trash over to us. I tend to think there are people who are confused by us picking up trash.  We're not being paid and we're not being punished.  We only do what we do to protect what we love.
Sometimes, in order to protect what we love... rules have to be made.  With all of the talk about banning smoking on our local beaches... many people start to ask questions.  Since I've been committed to cleaning up and raising awareness about the cigarette litter problem for nearly 2 years... I can easily answer the questions that people have and I do so often.  Being that most of the conversations are either private or get lost in the shuffle on Facebook....I've decided to answer 3 of the most popular questions right here:

1.  Where do littered cigarette butts come from-- storm drains, boaters, etc?

Having picked up and taken countless photos of littered cigarettes on Wrightsville Beach, I can attest to the fact that the majority of littered cigarette butts found on our local beaches have been stubbed out, flicked, tossed and left in the sand by beach-goers.  

2.  Littering laws are already in place.  Do we really need another law?

Yes.  Smoking needs to be banned on our local beaches.  The cigarette litter problem on our local beaches is out of control.  There are littering laws and there are signs in place, but those things aren't working to fix the problem.  Whereas, other beaches that have banned smoking report a major reduction in cigarette butt litter.  (Check out the sidebar to see the comparison between Santa Monica and Wrightsville Beach.)  There are, obviously, other benefits to smoke-free beaches beyond cleaning up the beach, but my focus is cigarette litter.

3.  Shouldn't we focus on something bigger, like plastics?

Plastics are a huge problem.  99% of litter we pick up on the beach is plastic and our oceans are becoming increasingly plasticized.  No doubt that's something that needs to be tackled and some plastics definitely need to be banned-- like styrofoam and plastic bags.  But, cigarette filters are also made from plastic and on top of that they contain toxic chemicals that leach into our environment as soon as they come in contact with water.  4.5 trillion little plastic cigarette filters are littered every single year making them the most littered item worldwide.  Change has to start somewhere, so let's work on fixing that.
20 minutes on July 21, 2012 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 4 lbs 10.5 oz
Cigarette butts: 197
Straws: 18
Caps: 20
Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 150 days: