5 years of litter prevention effort at Tybee Island

Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 3:43 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2022 at 3:44 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Communities up and down Georgia’s coast work every day to keep their beaches clean.

On Tybee Island, they’re celebrating five years of being part of a cigarette litter prevention program that they say has had huge success.

“When you see that message, ‘Georgia’s Coast is not an Ashtray’, it does connect in a lot of peoples’ minds that ‘oh, this does end up in the water most of the time.’”

This message is under the umbrella of the Cigarette Litter Prevention program that Tybee has been a part of for the last five years.

“We’ve been having these ashcans around, we’ve been giving out coasters, we’ve been having people with t-shirts,” Beach Task Force volunteer Kate Burns said.

Volunteers with the program, like Burns, have worked hard to raise awareness about the harmful effects of the nation’s number one most littered item- cigarette butts.

“I think we have 6,000 coasters to give out and we’re going to do that this afternoon,” Burns said.

The awareness involves putting the message out in front of people. Burns says giving coasters to the local restaurants, for example, has had a big impact on how people treat the island’s environment.

“I believe that our efforts have brought this island here to stop smoking,” Burns said.

Burns says so far, this is the program’s biggest success story. A beach-wide smoking ban that the city put into effect in June.

“We have a baseline of how many butts volunteers remove and this year it’s down 75 percent on average,” Tim Arnold said.

Arnold spearheads the beach cleanups and says litter prevention programs are the only way they’ll ever get the amount of litter they pick up down to zero.

“A lot of people are here on vacation, they’re enjoying themselves and they forget that little acts like dropping a cigarette butt or straw, collectively with 30,000 people on the beach, makes a huge difference,” Arnold said.

Vacationer, Susan Styre says she’s been coming to Tybee for 20 years. This year, she says she noticed a big difference.

“No cigarette butts. Very clean. Not even trash. It’s very, very clean. Much cleaner than it has been in years past,” Styre said.

The program is funded by the Keep America Beautiful grant and Burns says Tybee has gotten about $25,000 from it. To celebrate the last five years, there will be a community-wide clean up Saturday at Memorial Park. It’ll be from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Everyone is welcome to join.