Staff photo by Emmy Errante
Carson Mattox collects trash from the beach near Johnnie Mercer’s Pier during Big Sweep on Saturday, Sept. 21.
Wilmington residents John and Ashlyn Joyner headed out early Saturday morning to pick up litter on the Wrightsville Beach shore.
The father-daughter team was two of about 150 people to participate in the Wrightsville Beach portion of the North Carolina Big Sweep on Saturday, Sept. 21.
Included in this number are 66 participants from the University of North Carolina Wilmington Swim Team.
Walking south from Public Beach Access No. 16, located at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, halfway toward Crystal Pier, the Joyners found “almost a whole outfit,” including socks and underwear.
“We found all kinds of stuff,” John Joyner said, carrying a reusable bag full of trash. “… The diaper was unusual.”
Participants logged the items they found, with an incentive to log the most unusual items found for a countywide competition. Winners will receive prizes like reusable water bottles and lunch bags.
The most common items found were cigarette butts and plastic straw wrappers. Totals will be released to the public after they are calculated in coming weeks.
“It was a great turnout, particularly with the weather the way it was,” said Katie Ryan, Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation Program Supervisor, about the overcast day.
Wrightsville Beach jumped up in participation for the 2013 sweep, with about 42 more participants than in 2012. The unofficial numbers show that more than 600 people participated in the sweep countywide.
“It went smoothly,” said Jennifer O’Keefe, New Hanover County Environmental Educator. “We had a lot of people. We picked up a lot of stuff.”
Like the Joyners, Ginger Taylor, a Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project volunteer, regularly picks up trash on the beach. The Big Sweep is another one of those days.
About five years ago, Taylor and other sea turtle volunteers started documenting the amount of litter they picked up from May through the end of August while scanning the beach strand every morning for sea turtle tracks.
Close to 28,000 plastic grocery bags of trash have been collected since that time, but that does not include larger items volunteers find, like chairs and towels. Volunteers are now picking up the trash in reusable grocery bags and converting the numbers for consistency.
“We know that plastic is often found in the intestines of sea turtles,” Taylor said, drawing from her experience at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. “We don’t just advocate for the sea turtles. It’s for all wildlife.”
The Big Sweep, Taylor said, is an education opportunity that gets the community involved. Wrightsville Beach is a beautiful beach, and the goal is to keep it that way, she said. One change Taylor said she would like to see in Wrightsville Beach is lids on trash containers.
“The more that people know about it, the more they can pass it on to others,” Taylor said. “It is just one day, but it’s a day that raises awareness.”