By Susan Hill Smith for The Island Eye News
More than 125 volunteers ended Earth Week 2019 with a Party for the Planet on Isle of Palms Sunday, April 28. The all-ages celebration started as they cleaned up 2,200-plus pieces of trash on Front Beach and finished with a spread of food at The Windjammer as a thank-you.
Co-hosts included internationally prominent conservation organizations like the Turtle Survival Alliance, South Carolina Aquarium and Association of Zoos & Aquariums along with the locally-based Island Turtle Team and Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew.
In one afternoon hour, volunteers scoured the sands and documented collecting 2,289 pieces of trash after being prepped by SC Aquarium’s conservation team, which equipped everyone with a clipboard or made sure volunteers knew how to categorize their numbers with the Litter-free Digital Journal on the Citizen Science App.
That total includes 756 cigarettes and filters, which contain plastic threads, and more than 1,000 other pieces of plastic trash. The plastics category included 99 straw wrappers, 98 caps and lids, 66 straws and stirrers, 42 plastic bottles, 32 bags and many miscellaneous items, from a ping pong ball to a fake fingernail.
“Getting volunteers to track the debris they were finding on the beach allows them to see their impact and ultimately will help the Isle of Palms community find solutions to combat the most problematic debris,” said Kelly Thorvalson, aquarium conservation programs manager. “For anyone who considers litter an issue, download the SC Aquarium Citizen Science App on your mobile device and contribute data to the Litter-free Digital Journal.”
Plastics in the environment can harm aquatic animals in many ways, including entanglement and ingestion. People are also affected as plastics become a part of our food and water supply.
The conservation work of all the party co-hosts overlaps, Thorvalson said, “Coming together for an event like this was really exciting.”
The Turtle Survival Alliance not only wanted to engage citizens in cleaning up the beachfront but also bring awareness “to our human impact on ecosystems as a whole,” said TSA spokesperson Emily Kiefner. That includes the habitats of both ocean-based and freshwaterbased turtles.
“The amount of waste products we retrieved from a small section of beachfront during the one-hour cleanup can be viewed as a microcosm depicting our human impact on all the ecosystems around us,” Kiefner said.
Party for the Planet on Isle of Palms involved the following conservation organizations:
South Carolina Aquarium leads the way in connecting people with water, wildlife and wild places with initiatives like the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center, which has rescued, rehabilitated and released 274 turtles back into the ocean. SCAquarium.org
Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) has become a recognized global force for conservation of freshwater turtles and tortoises and has centralized its base of operations at the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, which includes more than 30, critically endangered species in its collection. TurtleSurvival.org/the-center
Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) is dedicated to advancing zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science and recreation. It serves as an accrediting body in the U.S. and 10 other countries. AZA.org.
Island Turtle Team protects nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on the beaches of Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island with permission from S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the support of many volunteers. IOP.net/ turtle-team
Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew invites everyone to attend its regular trash sweeps at Front Beach. The next will be May 13 followed by Monday sweeps every week from June 10 through Labor Day – all from 5:30-6:30 p.m. with a gathering afterward at an island eating spot. Facebook. com/IOPCleanup