Not an ashtray: Coastal Georgia launches cigarette litter prevention effort

(Keep Golden Isles Beautiful Facebook page)

Georgia's six coastal counties have joined together in an effort to rid the coast of cigarette litter.

The nation's number one most littered item is, you guessed it, cigarette butts, and organizations throughout Coastal Georgia want to make it clear that "Georgia's coast is not an ashtray!"

The initiative, by that name, is being put into motion by Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, the City of Tybee Island, Keep Savannah Beautiful, Keep McIntosh Beautiful, Keep Camden Beautiful, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, Keep Liberty Beautiful, Fort McAllister State Park and Crooked River State Park.

Made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic, cigarette butts do not easily biodegrade. Discarded butts have a negative impact as land litter, but once blown into storm drains or tossed directly into water sources, this toxic litter becomes marine debris, leaching chemicals into marine and aquatic environments and potentially being ingested by those inhabitants.

With Coastal Georgia’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean as well as its abundance of streams, rivers, lakes, creeks, salt and freshwater marshes and ponds, the coast-wide initiative focuses on cigarette butts in relation to water bodies.

The initiative will span over three months and is being funded by a $15,000 cigarette litter prevention grant from Keep America Beautiful.

Some things the initiative will consist of are as follows:

  • Cigarette waste receptacle and signage placement
  • Radio public service announcements
  • Social media promotion
  • Educational video development
  • Business signage placement
  • Drink coaster outreach and pocket/car ash tray distribution

Educational outreach will be provided in public spaces near coastal water bodies of varying types. Additionally, a total of 81 cigarette receptacles will be placed.

While simultaneous project-specific outreach activities will occur in all six coastal counties during the June-August effort, community-specific outreach activities are encouraged as well.

“Cigarette litter is polluting our beaches and water ways. Working with all of Georgia’s coastal communities, we can make a difference,” said City of Tybee City Manager Shawn Gillen. “With the help of the Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers and the Tybee Beach Ambassadors, we can make a positive impact on Georgia’s coast and demonstrate that a collective effort can set an example for other coastal communities around the nation to follow.”

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