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Don't use Georgia's coast as an ashtray
Keep Liberty Beautiful
Keep Liberty Beautiful logo
Sara Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.

Keep Liberty Beautiful has some cool friends along the coast and we love working with them. 

One of the coolest is Lea King-Badyna, the director for Keep Golden Isles Beautiful. Both of our programs have received national grants and awards over the years to promote education and litter cleanups that particularly focus on cigarette litter. 

I would be the first to say that litter can be gross, but cigarette litter is truly some of the nastiest litter there is. It is especially nasty when you think about it in our coastal waterways. 

So Lea, a true “bright idea” girl, got a group of us coastal county folks together several months ago to work on a regional coastal campaign to fight this nasty cigarette litter. We sent in a grant application that Lea coordinated and were awarded $15,000 by Keep America Beautiful to initiate our campaign this summer. 

The coastwide initiative will focus on cigarette litter near bodies of water: the ocean, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, etc. The initiative will run three months, June, July and August, and will consist of one regional outreach effort each month and additional local efforts in each community. 

Why are cigarette butts such a big deal? Made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic, cigarette butts do not easily biodegrade. Discarded butts have a negative impact as land litter, which is bad enough because wildlife can also mistake them for food and eat them. 

However, once these evil little pieces of trash are blown into storm drains or tossed directly into water sources, this toxic litter becomes marine debris, leaching chemicals into our waterways. Once again, these little butts can be mistaken as food but this time by marine and aquatic creatures. 

With coastal Georgia’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the abundance of streams, rivers, lakes, creeks and salt and freshwater marshes and ponds in these six targeted counties, cigarette litter can have a devastating effect on all of these bodies of water. 

This is an unprecedented effort in our region. A variety of organizations and programs in the six coastal counties of Georgia have joined together to fight the nation’s No. 1 most littered item: cigarette butts. 

In addition to Keep Liberty Beautiful and Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, these programs include the Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, the city of Tybee Island, Keep Savannah Beautiful, Keep McIntosh Beautiful, Keep Camden Beautiful, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Fort McCallister State Park and Crooked River State Park.

These groups have united in this effort to provide a summer of comprehensive cigarette litter awareness with the theme “Georgia’s Coast is Not an Ashtray.”

Funded by this Keep America Beautiful cigarette litter prevention grant, our programs will be able to 

• Set up cigarette waste receptacle educational signage and signage in key locations and distribute pocket and car cigarette butt containers.

• Provide outreach awareness on this issue through radio public service announcements; local and social media promotions, including one minute educational videos, and unique drink coaster outreach in local restaurant and bar establishments. 

This summer effort will be a wonderful way to send this important message about the negative effects of cigarette litter throughout our communities on the coast. If you would like to be involved, contact us at Keep Liberty Beautiful at klcbdirector@gmail.com. 

Thanks to all of these programs for coming together to do this, and certainly thank you, Lea, for pulling this all together!

In other news, we are also celebrating Keep Liberty Beautiful volunteers this Thursday. KLB is all about volunteers, so join us Thursday as we will be honoring our volunteers at a drop-in social from 5-7 p.m. at La Quinta Inn. 

If you volunteered this year, we invite you to join us and we thank you for making a difference for Liberty County. To RSVP for the event, we ask you to contact us by Monday at 912-880-4888 or klcbdirector@gmail.com

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