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Archive for January, 2011

Pier Pressure

Kure Beach Pier, 221 butts

Kure Beach Pier, 221 butts

January is ending on a warm and sunny note, perfect for walking on the beach and taking in the sights and sounds of the ocean from the Kure Beach Pier.

But wait, what’s that? Glancing down through the boards, there’s a horrible sight. Hundreds of cigarette butts and a large assortment of trash lay hidden below, evidence of human existence scattered about, waiting to be swallowed by the sea. The beauty of the water thrashing in front of our eyes is betrayed by the ugly truth just beneath us.

Beneath Kure Beach Pier

Beneath Kure Beach Pier

I had a few inquiries about my bucket sticker, supportive, I think. One man asked about banning smoking on beaches and I told him about the new Bait Tank cigarette receptacles at Wrightsville Beach.

I managed to pick up 221 cigarette butts, several forks and fireworks, and chunks of plastic. There was one fake white rose, probably from nuptials on the sand. I wasn’t able to crawl to the rear, but this would be a great place to retrieve the largest haul ever. Perhaps the 90 days until Earth Day folks will jump on this. Or, if you’re in the neighborhood, you might drop by for a five minute sweep. The ocean will thank you!

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The Beach Is Not An Ashtray

litter bucket with sticker, "the beach is not an ashtray"

116 butts, Carolina Beach, Drifter's Lane

After a weekend in NYC, I returned to the chilly beach with my bucket sticker for its maiden voyage. 

Obviously, at least 116 butts can’t read, and the beach is currently operating as an ashtray.

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178 butts, Kure Beach access 227
178 butts, Kure Beach access 227

The story probably went something like this: 

It was a chilly and clear Friday evening, perfect for a gathering on the beach. A small group of friends ventured to Kure Beach and found a great spot on the sand to drink some beer and smoke some cigarettes.

The waves were splendid, crashing in the darkness. Good friends were laughing and catching a buzz, just a great night on the island.

Time passed quickly and the salty air turned too cold by midnight, so the group pulled up their blankets and headed home, another memory made.

To be exact, this spot had 43 memories.  The tiny little stubs of white and brown, try as they may, just didn’t fit in with the sea grass and shells. They might as well have been colored flags on a used car lot. Anyone who picks up litter knows what I’m talking about.

I’d like to say that this particular story had a happy ending since these butts were retrieved and disposed of properly. However, now it is Saturday evening. It’s chilly and clear, perfect for a gathering on the beach…

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The first day of 2011 found me at the Atlantic Towers access on Carolina Beach. It was a welcome balmy day, 70 degrees and sunny.

This was my first beach cleanup of the year and I was greeted by 486 cigarette butts, bottles, plastic toys, several spent fireworks, and three unexpected “thank you’s” .  Just as I started on my butt-plucking journey, a turtle nest guardian expressed her thanks and related a story of how, when she was nest sitting, she gathered dozens of cigarette butts and posed them for a photo as a circle in the sand. My hope that there are many people who care.

litter collected, 486 butts, on Carolina Beach

Litter speaks. 486 cigarette butts.

The second thank you came as I was straining to extract a butt from between two planks.  I saw a pair of sandy young toes and when I looked up, a teenage surfer boy said, “Thanks for doing that. They’re really bad for the planet.” My hope for the future.

The third unexpected message was found as I completed my first beach cleanup of the year. I looked down at the assorted plastic, styrofoam, and butts to see the corner of a store receipt staring at me with the words “Thank You”.  My hope that I won’t give up.

Thanks to all the people who pick up litter on the beaches and in the woods and roads and mountains. Here’s hoping for a litter-free 2011.

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