Trash travels. That is why Keep Liberty Beautiful is running our local Rivers Alive campaign for 2013.
On Saturday, we planned to have our main event, with almost 400 volunteers registered to make a difference to protect our waterways and wetlands throughout our county. We had more than 100 volunteers who already had completed their cleanups and have several additional cleanups scheduled through Nov. 9, when we finish with our annual Beach Sweep at St. Catherines Island.
It is fitting to finish with our beach sweep. When litter travels in a coastal county like ours, trash is traveling toward the Atlantic and toward St Catherine’s, a pristine barrier island — that is, when our trash is not vacationing there.
We annually participate in Rivers Alive, a state campaign in partnership with the Ocean Conservancy, an international water-cleanup effort. Why should we worry about a barrier island and that vast ocean on our coast? As the conservancy says, two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is ocean. The ocean is our planet’s life-support system. It drives our climate and provides food, water and oxygen.
No matter where we live, we all depend on the ocean in some way — and we all have a responsibility to care for it. After all, you can’t “go green” unless you live “blue.” The O.C.’s efforts make up the world’s largest volunteer event on behalf of clean waterways. The work of cleanup participants is inspiring a sea change — hopefully, empowering people everywhere to take responsibility for trash-free seas every day throughout the year. Each year, volunteers in more than 100 countries remove millions of pounds of trash and debris.
The problem of littering and dumping has evolved over the past several decades. Trash once came from organic materials that readily broke down in the environment. But today, many products last for centuries and are buoyant, traveling for years in water and endangering ocean ecosystems and wildlife along the way. Many volunteers admit they hadn’t realized how much land-based trash never makes it to landfills, but instead is carried by wind and water to the ocean.
During these fall cleanups, our volunteers don’t just collect trash — they collect valuable information, too. Our volunteers tally everything they find on standardized data cards. We analyze and use the data locally and we share our findings with the conservancy’s data bank. Our local beach sweep is dependent on gracious local boaters who provide transportation to St Catherines on their boats, so their donations of boat use and fuel are sizable. We are sincerely thankful for these volunteers, as well as our beach-cleanup volunteers who donate their Saturday mornings to remove as much litter and debris as possible. In our first beach sweep in 2007, we collected thousands of pounds. The past several years, we averaged collecting between 400 to 500 pounds — a substantial difference.
That change is due to these annual volunteers as well as the many recreational visitors to this beach area who consistently collect any trash when they are there for a day of fun. We call these special folks BeachKeepers, and we have created a special T-shirt to acknowledge their efforts. If you are a BeachKeepers or you want to volunteer on Nov. 9, contact KLB today by calling 880-4888. Space is limited, and we will have to close registration for the Beach Sweep in the next week.
Grocery bags, cigarette butts, candy wrappers, plastic bottles, soda cans — they don’t fall from the sky; they drop from our hands and blow out of our vehicles. And sadly, what washes up on shore is a fraction of what stays in the water and threatens marine life and ecosystems every day. We all live downstream. What happens to our waterways and to our ocean affects all of us. Trash travels. We create it. We need to stop it.
Upcoming KLB event
• Nov. 15 —America Recycles Day. Take the pledge to recycle.