Tybee organizations team up to keep the beach cigarette butt free

(Credit: Briana Trusty)

As beach season gets started, Tybee Island organizations are joining forces to make one thing clear: Their beach is not an ashtray.

Cigarette butt litter is a major problem on Tybee Beach.

“It seems to be our number one issue out there," said Tybee Beach Ambassador Coordinator Steve Koehn.

And a bit of litter here and there wouldn't be a huge issue.

“If there were just a couple, nature could handle it," said Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers Founder Tim Arnold.

However, that's not the case.

“We’ve picked up 200,000 butts in the last 18 months off of the beach," said Arnold. "Lord knows how many are out there.”

That's why a coast-wide cigarette campaign is coming to Tybee.

“We bought ashtrays, coasters, window decals, a lot of different things to raise awareness that cigarette butts are litter and that litter is very dangerous in a coastal environment," said Arnold.

Funded by a $15,000 grant from Keep America Beautiful, the Georgia's Coast is Not an Ashtray initiative is promoting a significant message.

“Just hit the trash can with the butt," said Arnold. "That’s the most important message. It’s not about not smoking, it’s about not littering the toxic butt filter.”

To make sure there are no if's, and's or cigarette butts when it comes to keeping up with this initiative, receptacles like this one will be appearing all over Tybee to make sure that people have a place to put their butts and they are keeping the beach clean.

Even though the 81 receptacles won't be on the beach for a few weeks, Tybee Beach ambassadors don't want that to be an excuse.

“I think it becomes a convenience for them. They’re basically sitting in a giant ashtray with the sand and I think it becomes habit," said Koehn.

Which is why they are adding to the number of receptacles.

“We’re making these from cans and we hand them out as free ashtrays so people can use them, they can bring them back or they can keep them for souvenirs," said Koehn.

They're hoping that they can start to make a dent in the problem.

“The more we can inform and educate people, I think it will begin to make a bigger difference," said Koehn.

To find out more about the Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, who meet every Sunday at 6:30 p.m., visit their website.

To find out how to become a Tybee Beach Ambassador volunteer, visit their website.

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