Fight Dirty Tybee suspending group cleanups as health precaution

Volunteers cleaning litter from Tybee Island beaches.
Volunteers cleaning litter from Tybee Island beaches.(WTOC)
Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 5:04 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Several times each week a group of volunteers hit the beach and pick up buckets of litter on Tybee Island.

Now, the organization is taking a step back and leaving it up to citizens and the city to clean up until they decide it's safe to start back up. The organization is suspending cleaning efforts until the end of summer as a precautionary effort to avoid risk to their volunteers while COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Fight Dirty Tybee announced their decision to stop having group clean ups until at least early September.

“The amount of trash just keeps growing and growing and the humidity keeps getting higher and the crowds expand and now the virus is back, so we just decided it’s time to take a break,” Fight Dirty Tybee volunteer Tim Arnold said.

More than 50 volunteers came out Monday for one of their last clean ups. Arnold said each person came off the beach with at least a bucket and a half full of trash.

“We just don’t want to put people in harm’s way, but they really want to clean that beach up, so we’ll just do it individually,” Arnold said.

While the volunteers won't be doing organized group clean ups, people who want to come out on their own time can. Fight Dirty Tybee will have a check out station by the marine science center where people can grab and go.

“There’s going to be more trash on the beach. We’re going to work with the city and see if they can step up their efforts. I know they’re already stepping up their efforts on enforcement, but pickups have got to be a part of that,” Arnold said.

Arnold said while they aren't doing the clean ups, the group will be monitoring the beach to see how much trash builds up.

“The average volunteer comes back with a full bucket and they’re five gallon buckets, and most of that is small stuff. Cigarettes, straw, Styrofoam and bags, so it takes a lot to fill a bucket,” Arnold said.

The city says they aren't ready to comment about how they'll step in to do more to keep the beach clean in the meantime. City Manager Shawn Gillen did say the city evaluates their efforts after every weekend and the litter problem is always something they discuss.

“I think that’s exactly the right attitude. To attack this as a problem on the quality of life of the visitors and the residents of this island and the marine creatures that live here,” Gillen said.

Arnold said the dirtiest areas are on both sides of the pier. He reminds people to only leave their footprints.

“Studies have shown that if a beach is clean, it’s less likely to be littered. Conversely, if it’s littered it’s more likely to get littered,” Arnold said.

Fight Dirty Tybee says they are going to wait until the number of people on the island goes down to go back to their group clean ups.

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