Beach Litter Doesn’t Fight Fair: Let’s Fight Dirty
Beach season is almost here, and Tybee Island is the place to spend it. Tybee boasts five pristine public beaches that await swimmers, surfers and lovers of all things fun in the sun. Warmer months draw in thousands of visitors to Savannah’s beach, and unfortunately, the increased traffic tends to coincide with higher volumes of trash washing up on our shores. No one likes a dirty beach, and beach litter is harmful to marine life. Summer is the heart of sea turtle season, and we don’t want new hatchlings or moms to mistake ocean plastic for food. Of course, beach debris is entirely preventable. There’s so much that we can do to keep the coast clean this summer. Let’s learn to Fight Dirty!
Spearheaded by Tybee Clean Beach, Fight Dirty Tybee is a community-wide anti-litter campaign that works to eliminate beach trash through educational outreach, local partnerships and regular cleanups. Two years ago, three Tybee Islanders – namely, Kathryn Propst, Diane Kaufman and Tim Arnold – decided it was time to do something about beach debris. “We all just got fed up with the volume of litter on Tybee and started [this organization] to combat it with direct action,” said Arnold. That was the catalyst for Tybee Clean Beach, of which Arnold is the president and founder, and the Fight Dirty campaign.
Tybee Clean Beach is a non-profit organization comprised of volunteers who conduct regular beach sweeps and engage community members and visitors alike to combat beach trash. Volunteers come together on nearly a weekly basis to remove trash from Tybee shores, and unlike other cleanups, Tybee Clean Beach sweeps generate no additional trash in the process. Collectors use durable buckets and grabbers every cleanup. And collected litter is sorted and recycled or repurposed.
More than 2,000 people participated in a beach cleanup last year, and the effort is growing, but cleanups are just one part of the Fight Dirty campaign efforts. Tybee Clean Beach produces trash-to-art projects that are designed to alert people to the problem of beach litter through arresting visual exhibits. Tybee Clean Beach has also worked with the City of Tybee to launch the Beach Ambassadors program. Last year’s pilot project was a success, and the ambassadors will continue to stroll the beach, collecting trash and dispensing biodegradable paper ashtrays to smokers along with friendly tips about coastal conservation. Visitors can visit tents at common beach entrances for information about beach rules. Beachgoers can also pick up buckets and grabbers to collect trash during their stay. Of course, a clean beach is the best incentive to collect litter, but participants can win a t-shirt as a bonus.
Removing existing beach debris is important but preventing beach debris is key. Tybee Clean Beach encourages beachgoers to be cognizant of the ways that litter ends up lining the coast. “[It’s] most important to be aware of the small, lightweight stuff that’s so easy to lose in the sand or the wind – snack wrappers, straws, Styrofoam – and bring something to contain these items . . . and make sure they end up in the trash bin,” Arnold explained. Cigarette butts, plastic straws and bottle caps are the most abundant litter items, and they all pose great danger marine life. Smokers can find free reusable ashtrays at the aforementioned tents to help reduce the amount of butts on the beach. And drink-bearers should skip out on straws altogether to help lessen their presence and screw caps tightly to plastic bottles and recycle when finished. Small actions like these can really help to keep the coast clean and safe for local marine life. “Beach conservation means ensuring that human activity is minimized,” Arnold began, “The beach. . . is one of nature’s most perfect creations. . . It’s a refuge from this crazy world and needs to be protected for future generations and for all the creatures that inhabit it.”
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal choices. We all love the beach, and we all want to sustain it. Arnold explained, “The best way to show your love for Tybee is to clean the beach!” And in the day-to-day, Arnold encourages people to “be conscious of the end of life of everything you buy or acquire, and to try to seek out things that will biodegrade or get reused for a long time.” With a little extra care and attention, we can keep Tybee clean and pristine for summers to come. Follow Fight Dirty Tybee on social media for information about upcoming beach cleanings, and let’s each do our part to preserve the beach we love.