174 butts and iPhone on CB
174 butts and iPhone on CB

Apple hasn’t officially set up shop at Carolina Beach, but you wouldn’t know it by what I found this morning.

I stumbled across an iPod in a parking lot. The top glass was crushed, but the touchscreen was fine. While I wasn’t able to figure out whose it was, I did come across the obligatory self-snapped photo of a young male flexing his muscles in the bathroom mirror.

I turned this gem in to a proxy cop, the information booth at the town hall since the cop shop was closed. I wish the young man luck in his strength training.

While I was enroute to my beach cleanup, I spotted the most wonderful thing; an army of young trash retrievers. They had filled an entire pickup truck with street and beach trash. It made my day. They were all aflitter with bags and gloves and picking up sticks.

Next stop, knowing that these kind people likely skipped over cigarette butts, as many do, I headed for the sand. Indeed, there was barely a cup or paper to be found, but I did scrape up 174 cigarette butts rather quickly. I had a lovely conversation with a young family about the importance of keeping the beach clean. I watched a small child launch a kite so perfectly that he’ll probably go pro… and then I saw it. I spotted yet another Apple that had fallen from the tree!

I carefully dug my hand into the sand to retrieve the shiny black iPhone that looked a heck of a lot like mine, mostly because they’re all black and they’re all shiny. I pushed the home button and found it had a lock code and a screen photo of a cute little dog. Well, the lock was not to be broken so I pondered.

After pondering for a good long while, I held down the home button for several seconds. It took me to Voice Control, sounds powerful. Not having the best common sense at times, it took me a while to figure out that it wanted me to speak to it, and so I did. I spoke as if it would answer me.

Feeling like I had just solved some great secret of the world, I cleared my throat and said, “CONTACTS”.  Instead of arriving at the contact list, the phone started calling “Aunt Kaye”. Petrified, I hung up, thinking “what do I say?” , “tell your niece to meet me at the boardwalk or she’ll never see her phone again”? Still, she remained my backup plan.

Next, I tried to reach the address book. I said “ADDRESSES”, which led me directly to a very loud song by Michael Jackson. I yelled, “STOP”, but he kept singing. Finally, I turned the phone off and then on. I repeated this request, with the same result.  Within a minute of rebooting the second time, the owner of the phone called. She said she thought she’d never see it again. I thought I’d never get rid of it.


flip flop & glopflip flop & glop

Earth Day is the perfect time for a litter picking stroll on the sand, this time to the junction of Carolina and Kure Beaches.

Since the beaches are getting busier, with tourists and locals, little sand sculptures are easily found. Unfortunately, many include plastic bits and pieces that will be washed out to sea. For instance, my found work of art included a wad of green fishing line atop a hastily built tower.

People, please remember that what lays on the sand will eventually end up in a sea turtle’s stomach. I plucked the plastic tumbleweed from its castle tower and moved on. 

The cigarette butts (94 total) were half-submerged from the tide. Candy wrappers and taffy boxes were plentiful, too.

The crowning glory was a child’s flip flop, which had come to rest atop a (yes, another) inflated condom covered with blue goo. If someone knows of a sea creature that looks like a condom, please let me know [we have one vote for Man o’ war], but I fear the worst; lust turns to litter. 

This is the dreaded first holiday weekend of the season. There will be Easter egg hunts, colored straw and chocolate bunny wrappers. People of all ages, please keep it clean. After all, would you want to swallow that which you left behind?

toys and plastics and 74 butts
74 butts and stuff, 4-10-2011

Sunny Sundays in April equal tourists who are under the impression that the Kure Beach sand has maid service.

This also marks the start of toy retrieval, including this paddle and a broken arrow. What does one do with an arrow on the beach? I have no clue, but so starts my summertime toy chest collection.

Of course, there were plastics and styrofoam and 74 butts, always the butts.

This is the same Kure Beach that outlawed thongs; why so many butts?

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.

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.

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.

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.