CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Many people headed to Lowcountry beaches for the Labor Day weekend, but litter left behind can cause issues for the ecosystem. Local environmental groups say it’s single-use plastics like straws and plastic bags that are the biggest concern.
Surfrider Foundation Chair, Marlo Shedlock, says, “Single-use plastics are something that unfortunately a turtle or a sea bird really can’t distinguish between that and a food source. So you see a lot of marine mammals and birds that ingest these single-use plastics and they end up not being able to digest them.”
She says, like many others, spent her Labor Day on a local beach, but it became less relaxing once she saw what a seagull had in its mouth.
Shedlock says, “I ran over, I thought it was a hot Cheeto. It ended up being a bit of a straw. I chased the seagull down, like an idiot, and he or she dropped it and I picked it up. This is what we’re talking about. I know a lot of people don’t intentionally plan to litter, but it happens. And when it does happen, this can be ingested by any type of wildlife.”
This is why the Surfrider Foundation started the Strawless Summer campaign, encouraging restaurants to refrain from giving customers straws unless asked.
Shedlock says, “We had about 500 restaurants and bars participate in South Carolina. We had about 130 in Charleston. We actually had some restaurants that were so enthusiastic that they went completely strawless and they have moved to metal straws.”
The celebrate the end of Strawless Summer, the Surfrider Foundation is holding a beach cleanup on Thursday, September 6th outside the Tides Hotel on Folly Beach. The cleanup will be followed by a screening of a documentary and a panel discussion about single-use plastics.
The Isle of Palms Police Department is hosting their own cleanup on Tuesday, September 4th from 6-9 AM at the Isle of Palms County Park.
Even if you can’t attend a beach cleanup, there’s something everyone can do to keep local waterways litter-free.
Shedlock says, “If you’re walking outside and you see something on the ground, just pick it up and throw it away. We all should be personally responsible.”