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Front Beach Super Sweep

By Susan Hill Smith for The Island Eye News

Kristen Lesesne shows off a big trash find while reporting back at Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew’s meeting spot at the public beach walkover, next to Coconut Joe’s.

Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew is teaming up with partners for a July 30 Front Beach “super sweep” that will also celebrate Coconut Joe’s decision to phase out plastic straws in its oceanside restaurant.

Charleston Surfrider Foundation and Coastal Conservation League will join the crew, which has been staging a weekly Front Beach trash cleanup with a social component Monday evenings during the summer. Sign-in for the hour-long sweep will be on the beach starting at 5:30 p.m. at the public walkover by Coconut Joe’s, which will host this week’s gathering with discounts. Volunteers only need to clean up for half an hour before joining the after party.

With guidance from Surfrider, Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew kicked off its sweeps June 25, with plans to continue them through Labor Day. As many as 50 to 100 volunteers have shown up each Monday, and crew organizers expect a boost in participation July 30 with Surfrider and CCL pulling in their supporters.

“This sweep is about bringing people together to share information and, ultimately, change habits to create and sustain cleaner beaches here on Isle of Palms and worldwide,” says Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew Co-organizer Katrina Limbach.

Surfrider is an international non-profit working to protect and preserve the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Charleston Surfrider Vice Chair Olivia Bueno is excited about the group’s involvement in the July 30 sweep and the added help from CCL.

“Collaborating with different organizations allows us to reach beyond our normal capacity and come together as a community to raise awareness on the marine debris issue we are facing in the Lowcountry,” Bueno says. “When volunteers see firsthand the abundance of plastic litter on our beaches, it helps reiterate the importance of rising against plastics and instills a behavior change to refuse single-use plastics, especially plastic straws.”

Coconut Joe’s decided to join the wave of businesses ditching plastic straws with encouragement from Charleston Surfrider, which is in the second year of a local “Strawless Summer” push that also encourages consumers to go without.

For Coconut Joe’s, the transition started in mid-July and will be permanent, not just a summer thing, according to Caitlin West, chief of operations for the main restaurant as well as Joe’s To Go and Island Joe’s next door.

“We are not offering any straws voluntarily. They have to be requested. If someone needs a straw, we will provide a paper straw for a nickel, and a portion of all of our straw sales is going to Surfrider,” explains West, daughter of Coconut Joe’s owner, Joe Petro.

While there have been some complaints, she says, most of the feedback so far has been positive. She intends to press further in making Coconut Joe’s more eco-friendly, for example, eliminating all plastic cutlery. After all, the Coconut Joe’s family considers the ocean to be their home, too. “Any little bit to keep it clean, to get it cleaner than it already is, and reduce our impact is very important to us.”

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