Horry County, SC - GARDEN CITY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Police worked with inmates from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center Monday morning to clean up trash along Grand Strand beaches.
They say the effort takes place every morning throughout the tourist season, but more detention center trustees are brought in to manage the trash on the Independence Day holiday.
Some people living in the Garden City area say while they enjoy the fireworks displays on the Fourth of July, they are tired of seeing the trash pile up after the festivities.
"You have 15 minutes of a beautiful sight in the sky," Jane Eason said. "But then you have the trash forever, unless somebody else picks it up."
"It just makes me cry," fellow Garden City resident Charlotte Jones agreed. "I would just think that people would want to take care of our beach and make it a beautiful place. If you bring it in, you can bring it out."
Police working to organize the effort say they requested the help of more than 30 inmates to aid in the clean up processes that began in the early morning hours. They say three different teams worked in the unincorporated areas of the county to take truckloads of trash to large dumpsters off of the beach sites.
Organizers says thousands of pounds of trash are collected every year on the Fourth of July in the form of used fireworks, cans, cigarettes, beach chairs and other discarded items from the holiday's festivities.
Dr. Susan Libes, professor at Coastal Carolina University, says the cigarette butts can be especially concerning.
"It's a bit of a double standard for us to be worried about tar balls from the Gulf of Mexico Spill and not about the load of toxic materials from these cigarette butts," Libes said. "We really need to be better stewards of our beaches."
Libes says studies have also shown that plastics can be especially dangerous if and when they make their way into the water.
"These plastics tend to absorb certain kinds of pollutants out of the water, so they become in themselves more toxic over time," Libes explained. "Any wildlife ingesting them then gets a body-burden of those toxics."