Volunteers gather more than 3,300 pounds of litter from across the Crystal Coast during cleanup event

Carteret Big Sweep volunteers gather about 350 pounds of litter Saturday from the Newport River public boat ramp on Radio Island. (Carteret Big Sweep photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Saturday, volunteers joined Carteret Big Sweep staff in collecting more than a ton of litter and debris from around Carteret County for the 36th International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Carteret Big Sweep, a county program dedicated to educating the public on litter and keeping the coastal environment clean, organized multiple groups to clean up litter at various sites. Big Sweep Coordinator Dee Smith said Monday 18 volunteer groups were scheduled, along with many families.

Big Sweep was still tallying the total number of volunteers and pounds of litter collected Tuesday afternoon, but Ms. Smith said they had 256 total confirmed volunteers, who collected at least 3,305 pounds of litter.

“Coastal Carolina Riverwatch picked up about 1,000 pounds,” Ms. Smith said. “They had about 17 volunteers. We cleaned up everywhere from Down East to Cape Carteret.”

CCRW, a grassroots organization with a Morehead City office, is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the waters, land and communities of eastern North Carolina. Other groups, agencies, businesses and organizations that partnered with Carteret Big Sweep on the cleanup include Duke University Marine Lab, Carteret Community College, Parker Boats, Surfrider of Bogue Banks and Pine Knoll Shores town staff and officials.

DUML representatives Claire Huang and Eva May organized 22 volunteers through the Duke branch of The Coastal Society for the event. They said in a Monday interview with the News-Times they’ve partnered with Carteret Big Sweep on previous International Coastal Cleanup Day events and will continue to in the future.

The DUML volunteers focused on the Front Street area of Beaufort. The group collected about 178 pounds of litter, including a small derelict boat anchor.

Ms. Huang and Ms. May said the cleanup is one of the first in-person events DUML has been able to hold since the coronavirus. pandemic began.

Outside of the large groups, individuals also participated in the cleanup. Keller Williams CEO Robby Baker said Monday he went on a “solo mission” to the dredging spoil island south of the N.C. State Port of Morehead City to collect litter.

He first got involved with Carteret Big Sweep when they partnered with Keller Williams for the company’s RED Day event, an annual day of community service, he noted.

“It got me thinking,” Mr. Baker said, “Being an avid sportsman and fisherman, I knew of places accessible by boat, but not by foot.”

He took his boat over to the spoil island, where he knew vacationers sometimes go. There he found visitors to the island had used industrial plastic sheeting to crease makeshift water slides, then left the sheets behind, along with other litter, like drink bottles, boogie boards and cigarette butts. Mr. Baker said he estimates he collected about 150 pounds of litter from the island alone Saturday. He said the results of his trip “unfortunately…weren’t surprising.”

“For many coastal towns, cleanup at this time of year is so important,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality, and it’s good to see people stepping up.”

Melissa Rose of Morehead City is another local volunteer who organized a cleanup group. She got together a group of 16 of her friends and neighbors, many of them from the Country Club Run subdivision, to gather litter along the Newport River public boat ramp on Radio Island.

Ms. Rose said this is the second time she’s organized a cleanup with Carteret Big Sweep.

“We did it last year,” she said. “The kids love it. This year we extended out a bit. One of our group is a marine scientist; he said every piece of trash collected could potentially save the life of a sea turtle.”

According to Ms. Smith’s estimate, Ms. Rose’s group collected about 350 pounds of litter from the boat ramp site.

“There’s a lot of debris that washes up,” Ms. Rose said. “There’s tons of plastic bottles, plastic bags, buoys, boat cushions…we’ve even found articles of clothing.”

Ms. Rose went on to say she’s glad she can take part in an environmental event that’s locally based and part of a larger, international effort.

Saturday’s cleanup isn’t the only one Carteret Big Sweep has planned this year. Ms. Smith said another will take placed at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16 along Highway 24 near Bogue Airfield. She said the Naval Clinic at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point has volunteered to host the cleanup, and additional volunteers are welcome.  


Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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