The phrases should go without saying: The beach is not your ashtray. Litter is everybody’s business. The river is not a garbage disposal. Trash goes in the trash can.
And yet we must say them. And say them again. And apparently say them again. As The Sun News reported on Tuesday, volunteers with the Ocean Conservancy picked up nearly 10 tons of garbage from South Carolina’s beaches back in September. (They picked up more than 200 tons in North Carolina.) Last month, more than 200 big-hearted folks collected more than 4 tons of trash from the waterways around Murrells Inlet.
Myrtle Beach spends $1.1 million a year just to keep its stretch of beach clean for its residents and visitors. And just Thursday, Horry County Parks and Recreation Director Brent Taylor used trash to illustrate a point to County Council members about the demand for boating in the county. Don’t believe that plenty of people use the county’s boat ramps? “Look at the trash left behind after a big weekend,” he said.
Why should you care? Everything flows downstream, and it all carries a cost, whether it’s in the tax money spent by coastal municipalities to clean their beaches, the cost of water treatment facilities to deal with polluted groundwater or rivers, or even lost benefits from wildlife that slowly disappears because of human indifference.
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What can you do? Once again, the most obvious step should go without saying: Put your trash where it belongs. Beyond that, residents can help with cleanup projects that take place throughout the area. Adopt a boat landing through the Waccamaw Riverkeeper. Report drivers and others who litter. If community spirit and common sense don’t sway litterers, inform them of the stiff penalties for those who trash our state: At minimum, $200 per incident, with the possibility of mandated community service or even jail time.
It’s in all of our interests to protect the place in which we live and play. It’s the foolish bird that fouls its own nest. And so -- even though it should go without saying -- we’ll say it one more time: Put the trash in the trash can. Even cigarette butts count as litter. Don’t trash our communities.