Archive for March, 2011

SandSweepers first pickup, Kure Pier, 3-26-2011, 998 butts
SandSweepers 1rst event
 Kure Pier, 3-26-2011, 998 butts

The first official litter pickup for the Island Women SandSweepers sub-committee resulted in a total of 998 cigarette butts, many pieces of plastic, firework debris, and a variety of unmentionables.

The underbelly of Kure Pier is filled with large pieces of trash and hundreds of cigarette butts, thrown down through the slats above; where do people think these land? It would take a large crew the entire day to clean this area, but this was a start.

The grand total collected on our Kure Beach pickup included items retrieved by the Island Women and the Danielle Richardet family, who drove down for a special pickup.

Stay tuned for more organized events. The next SandSweepers pickup will likely be at the North end on Pleasure Island. As always, remember, the beach is not an ashtray.


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Patterns in the Sand

cigarette butt in sand
1 of 47 butts, Carolina Beach, Sand Dollar access

The brain looks for simple patterns and this is how my brain spots cigarette butts in a sea of sand and shell patterns.

People often ask how I can see a tiny cigarette butt in similarly colored sea gems. To me, they stick out like a sore thumb; my brain is seeking a cylindrical object. This simple shape is known as a geon. Other geons are spheres, cubes, cones and wedges.

Many years ago, I had the unfortunate job of watching patterned fabric spin at a hundred miles an hour. My job was to stop the machine when I spotted an irregularity and cut the roll at the offending piece. It’s the same idea. The eye scans for something that doesn’t fit. So, when nestled in a bed of glistening multi-shaped shells, a straw, or pen,or cigarette will be quite apparent.

You’d be amazed at how quickly you can pick up this skill. Pick up a few butts while you’re at it.

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sweeping litter off sandy beach

Make a dolphin smile. Pick up your litter.

Kure Pier is the location for the first organized litter pickup by the SandSweepers, a tiny little subcommittee of the Island Women’s environmental committee.

The pickup is not just for island dwellers or women, so please join us from 10-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 26. We will meet at the beach access next to the pier just before 10:00. Please bring anything you’ll need, like gloves and trash bags.

Energetic people who like to crawl are encouraged to explore under the pier, where a wealth of debris tends to reside. We’re also hoping to get a cigarette butt count so keep track if you can.

If you can’t join us here, please pick up litter somewhere. It’ll make the planet happy.

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2-27-2011: 27 butts, rum bottle, plastics, can shrapnel
27 butts, rum bottle, plastics, can shrapnel

The final beach cleanup of February was warm, sunny, and a day for experiments. There’s nothing like a captive audience for exploring human behavior.

This was my first time working the Seahorse Lane access at Carolina Beach and I was pleasantly surprised to find only 27 cigarette butts! I imagine this is related to the more residential nature of the area.  I did find several shards of plastic, a rum bottle, and pieces of can shrapnel, probably from cans that were blown to bits by some careless, bored individuals.

Being as it doesn’t take much brain power to pick up litter on the beach, I have a lot of time to think; this is where it gets dangerous.  As I was making my first pass, near the dunes, I came upon a group of people smoking on the steps of a house access. Next to their feet were several cigarette butts. Instead of picking them up, I thought I’d try something different: don’t say a word; glance briefly at the humans, then at the sand (with tear-filled eyes, if possible); turn my bucket so they can view my “The Beach Is Not An Ashtray” sticker and move on.  It’s important to glance and not stare when focusing on the humans. Timing is important; a stare can antogonize, leading to unfavorable results.

My thought is that people with a conscience will pick up on the properly executed cues and remove their debris. In fact, I returned at the end of my cleanup and indeed, the butts had been removed. There was evidence of fingers having trailed through the sand to retrieve the offending stubs.

This, and the 27 butts on the 27th day of February, made it a perfect day at the beach.

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