Archive for October, 2010

cigarette butts, toy car, and assortment of plastics

Carolina Beach, 10-31-2010, 434 butts

Tomorrow begins the start of dog season on Carolina Beach so I decided to do a cleanup at one of my likely destinations with the pups. This stretch of beach is particularly troubling and I picked up 434 cigarette butts in less than one hour.

I witnessed a group of people untangling a pelican from a fishing line and my Pickit stick got stuck from an accumulation of sand. Both the pelican and stick were successfully set free and the beach was cleaner, proving once again that bad can get better.


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beginning litter pickup from Kure Beach
start of Kure Beach cleanup on 10-30-2010

I selected Kure Beach for my October 30 cleanup, south of the pier. Things started out as they always do, with a variety of plastics, aluminum, and many cigarette butts. The early morning shell hunters were out; most of them seem to bypass litter without a second thought.

Near the end of my journey, I noted a fisherman walking the shore near the water. He was bending over frequently, picking up what I thought were shells. As I approached his area, he unfolded two fists full of old cigarette butts. He dumped them into my bucket and said, “I hate this”. This guy made a conscious decision to spend a few minutes of his time picking up butts, rather than sitting and staring at the water. Although I found 138 butts and an assortment of other trash, this post earns the category of “Good Stuff” for the guy who made my day. More seeds, more growth, more change.

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What kind of people do this? I stopped counting at 500 butts, but I picked these up in just a one block area on Carolina Beach in North Carolina. I spend a few hours each weekend picking up what others discard, mostly cigarette butts.

bucket of cigarette butts from Carolina Beach

Carolina Beach, one block = 500 plus butts

Out of curiousity, I spent the afternoon at Wrightsville Beach (down the road a bit) to see how it compares. After I plunked every coin I own into a meter for two hours parking, I took a stroll from access 24 all the way to access 2. I was amazed at how little litter there was to be found, including cigarette butts. I found a total of 23 cigarette butts compared to over 500 in just one small area at CB. It seems like Wrightsville Beach gets it (W)right.

Why the huge difference just miles apart? There were scores of people fishing this weekend at CB and it seems most of them smoke. But(t) this? Someone even had the nerve to ask me if I’m an ecoterrorist as I plucked the tiny toxic tidbits from the sand.

Litter is 100% preventable. The effects of litter are well-documented and publicized. To litter or not is a choice. It is a culture. I conclude that there must be some cultural difference at play. What is acceptable at one location is not at another.

So, how do we fix this mess? Outlaw smoking on the beach? Start a volunteer litter patrol?  The beach towns will not implement any regulation they feel will have a negative affect on tourism, so perhaps we need a rating system for beach cleanliness. Having a poor rating would affect tourism, which would provide incentive to confront this problem.

There are many caring citizens on Pleasure Island, including the Island Women and a number of individuals who advocate for the environment.  We need more. It’s sad to walk on sand and shells at one beach and on toxic fibers at another.

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A Happy Median

This morning I was pleased to see a huge decrease in beach litter at my favorite Carolina Beach spot, so I moved to the highway median north of Snow’s Cut.

bounty from pick up on Carolina Beach Road median

bounty from Carolina Beach Road median

I cleaned this particular place about 3 weeks ago and one would think it would be a breeze, especially after tourist season. However, there was plenty of new debris to pick up. This lovely photo pretty well sums it up.

Here is a summary of some highlights:

  • Most common plastic bag: Walmart
  • Most common can: Budweiser
  • Most common cigarette butt (out of ten million): Marlboro
  • Strangest item: catheter tubing

The good news is that today several people honked and gave me a thumbs up and no one flipped me off.  This is progress.


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A New Hanover County resident’s film about beach litter has become a finalist in a contest sponsored by Sundance. Danielle Richardet’s film, Our Daily Ocean: A story of butts, is about her family’s experiences while picking up litter at Wrightsville Beach. This post earns the category of “Good Stuff”.

Read more about this film.

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As of October 12, 2010, more than 40,000 reports of littering have been called into the Arkansas Litter Hotline. Cigarettes are the number 1 type reported.

To report littering in the Natural State, call 1-866-811-1222 . Keep Arkansas Beautiful.

Every state should have one of these.

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barbie on the roadside with cigarette buttsThese Barbies and butts inspired the Litter Sucks site. Shortly after moving to the Wilmington NC area, I noticed that there is a lot of litter. Things seem to be intentionally tossed on the road, into ditches, and on the beach .

People tell me that these Barbies likely met the pavement because children were fighting over them, resulting in their being launched from the vehicle. Was there no consideration for the impact on the environment?

What’s most annoying is that there’s no reason for litter. It can be eliminated by people stashing their trash where it belongs.

After spending many hours picking up garbage, it became evident that more needs to be done. 

redhead Barbie in the road

So, a Website is born.

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