‘Small but mighty’ Grand Strand Cigarette Litter Reduction Project wraps up

Updated: Jan. 31, 2019 at 9:50 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Everyone knows plastic bags and straws have garnered widespread attention as pollutants. However, environmental experts said there’s a bigger plastic problem- cigarette filters.

Cigarette butts might be small, but they’re mighty. They’re easy to toss on the ground, especially if ashtrays aren’t nearby.

Truthinitiative.org said cigarette butts top the list of most littered things, with about 4.5 trillion discarded each year worldwide. Nearly all cigarette filters are made of plastic fibers called "cellulose acetate.” When tossed on the streets and beaches, it leads to land, water and air pollution, and can even harm animals in the ecosystem.

The Grand Strand Cigarette Litter Reduction Project started back in June 2018 and just wrapped up this month. It was launched to enhance public awareness and promote proper disposal of cigarette butt litter at beach and river accesses across Horry and Georgetown counties. The project was made up of three key elements - cigarette litter monitoring, public education, and cigarette butt receptacle installations.

Project leaders said from all 12 monitoring events they conducted during the study, a little over 7,500 cigarette butts were collected along Myrtle Beach State Park, Garden City Beach and the Wacca Wache Landing.

“There are many impacts that cigarette butts can have on our environment. So, our water quality degradation, so the toxins in cigarette butts can actually leach into the water and impact the health of the water. Animals - so wildlife, birds, fish - they might mistake it as food and ingest it to cause harm to their bodies as well as the plastic component of the filters. Again those thin plastic fibers, they don’t fully break down in our environment,” said Lisa Swanger, coordinator for the Coastal Waccamaw Watershed Educations Programs.

The group just recently installed three cigarette butt receptacles at the Myrtle Beach State Park and the Wacca Wache Landing. Leaders said a fourth location is pending. They hope this project serves as a platform for other groups.

The group is raising awareness at this year’s Waccamaw Conference at the Horry County Museum on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. This year’s theme is “The Journey of Trash: Pollution to Solution.”

For more information on this event, click here. To learn more on how to help reduce cigarette litter, click here.

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