City of Myrtle Beach trash bin travels across Atlantic Ocean, washes ashore in Ireland

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 7:18 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2021 at 7:53 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – A trash bin from Myrtle Beach has made its way across the Atlantic Ocean.

Keith McGreal, who lives along Ireland’s west coast, said he found the blue bin in Mulranny, Co. Mayo on Sunday.

McGreal told WMBF News that he and his family were taking a stroll on the beach when they saw a large object had washed up on the shore.

The trash bin became somewhat weathered throughout the journey, but the city of Myrtle Beach’s logo is still clearly seen.

A family discovered a Myrtle Beach trash bin that traveled thousands of miles and washed ashore...
A family discovered a Myrtle Beach trash bin that traveled thousands of miles and washed ashore on the west coast of Ireland.(Source: City of Myrtle Beach)

McGreal said up until this point, he knew very little about Myrtle Beach. But after finding the bin, he said his family immediately did some research and learned about how far the object had traveled.

McGreal added it’s rare for him and his family to find something identifiable on the beach that they could trace back to an actual location.

“This is like a message in the bottle. The fact I’m talking to you, people on social media, it’s opening up those channels of communication between two communities on either side of the world and that for me is important,” McGreal said.

He added that the bin discovery was also a teaching moment for his family about how far debris can travel in the water.

Meanwhile, there’s no way of knowing when the city of Myrtle Beach lost the trash bin but officials believe it may have been blown away during a storm.

“I don’t think it’s possible to tell when it went missing, but it probably was during a wind or storm event. We typically remove trash containers from the beach before a hurricane, but this one apparently had a mind of its own,” the city of Myrtle Beach said on Facebook.

Some experts provided additional insight about how the trash made its nearly 4,000-mile journey from the Grand Strand to Europe.

“It’s not all that unusual actually,” said Paul Gayes, executive director of the Center for Marine and Wetland Studies at Coastal Carolina University. “There’s a large-scale circulation in the Atlantic Ocean and we’re familiar with one arm of that current which is the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is a very strong, warm current that runs from South to North along the East Coast and North America.”

“The Gulf Stream flows roughly parallel to our coast until it gets to the Outer Banks to North Carolina,” said Frank Strait, severe weather liaison for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Land Water and Conservation Division. “Then it turns more East-Northeastward from there. Then flows up to 40 degrees North and 30 degrees West before it starts to branch off in three different directions. One of those branches goes toward to Ireland, so that’s likely what happened.”

“We sometimes will see debris that comes off the East Coast of the United States move up the Gulf Stream, get into that North Atlantic current, and come across and get deposited in Europe,” said Clayton Whitesides, associate professor of geography at Coastal Carolina University. “This is part of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. It’s this big circular motion of four different currents.”

Experts say a big takeaway from the story is for people to be even more attentive about anything that could float into the water.

“It’s direct evidence that what enters the ocean floats around and gets transported places,” said Whitesides. “I think it shows us we should be cognizant of where our waste is going so when you do go to the beach, to ensure you do collect your trash and get it into the correct bins. Or when you’re recreationally on any of our waterways, you think about some of the debris that may end up in those water bodies and ultimately make it to the ocean and once they make it to the ocean, there’s potential for them to get transported in the North Atlantic Gyre. There’s also potential for it to get stuck in the middle of the gyre.”

McGreal said the trash bin is currently being used as a trash receptacle on the remote stretch of beach where it was found.

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