Why we choose to bail out the litterbugs on our Charleston, SC beaches

By Mark A. Leon

On the morning of July 5, 2017 at 5:50 AM, news crews were on-site at Folly Beach to talk about the clean-up event scheduled for 6:00 PM that evening. A group of conscientious patrons organized a post July 4th clean up volunteer effort to help pick up all the garbage left behind from the July 4th festivities.

The beach was a forthright mess. Beer bottles, water bottles, wrappers, clothes, towels, chairs and more draped the normally scenic backdrop of the ocean sand. There were even chairs on the edge of the sand in the water. Some debris even potentially disrupting the sand patterns of the sea turtles.

It was a saddening site to see as I took my sunrise walk.

As a woman spoke to local reporters and then walked the beach with a bucket and pick, I began to ponder the pros and cons of this event. I naturally admired the dedication of the residents that were going to bond together to bring the beauty and cleanliness back to our beach, but that wasn’t what dominated my thoughts.

Why are we not holding people accountable for their disrespectful and dangerous behavior?
This event sets a precedent that we tolerate this behavior and that if people litter the beaches, someone else will pick it up for them.

I started thinking about how we could let these actions happen?

  • Understaffed enforcement – We know the patterns of behavior of beachgoers including the typical time frame for arrival and departure. Why do we not patrol and if litter is left behind, we fine on the spot?
  • Promoting a clean-up event on Facebook enhances the perception that people can get away with this behavior.
  • We do not take any serious action to remind people of the privilege of being on our area beaches. We need to partner with law enforcement and local businesses to remind and reinforce the need to keep our beaches clean.

I continued to walk that morning, watching the miracle of the sun rise from the ocean into the sky, but this morning was a little different; a little sadder.

I know July 4th is an anomaly happening once a year like Memorial Day and other holidays, but I have witnessed waste remains during non-holiday weekends and weekdays.

We allow people to take advantages of a gift without holding them responsible for their actions and this behavior needs to be addressed soon.

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