TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV)- Tybee Island volunteers are seeing cigarette butts pile up on the beach. In March city council passed an ordinance banning smoking in areas between 14th and 16th street, but they say people are still littering.
“We find 3,000 to 6,000 every week in the same area,” said Tim Arnold, manager of Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers.
Arnold says in the five year’s he’s been cleaning tybee’s beaches he’s never seen litter quite like this.
“Memorial day weekend we found 3,500 we haven’t counted them yet, that’s an estimation,” he said.
Arnold says cigarette butt litter isn’t just an eyesore, it poses a massive risk to the environment.
“It just has a multiplying effect of harm it either gets buried under the sand and shows up another day or it degrades into microplastic,” said Arnold, “or it gets ingested by a creature that nobody wants to see harmed or killed.”
When the cigarette butt filters get wet they also release toxins said Arnold.
Signage is posted to remind people of the rules, but some ask why is vaping banned too?
“The number one reason is because it’s the fasting growing litter we have,” said Arnold. “Bits of plastic, the batteries, the caps,” he said, “it’s just littered all over the beach and leaches toxins as well.”
Mayor shirley sessions is working with Arnold to get enforcement back on track. She tells WSAV News 3 the pandemic derailed their efforts.
“After a period where we feel like we’ve done all of the outreach we can we will have to go to citations,” said Sessions. “We will be revamping our signage adding the fees that are attached if citations are written.”
WSAV did catch up with one beachgoer who isn’t taking the problem lightly. She says it’s a call to action.
“My generation, the millenials, we defintely know how its affecting the environment and marine life,” said Genevieve Gholizadeh, who is visiting from North Carolina. “Even if we weren’t the cause of the problem we need to solve it.”
Arnold says they are hoping to turn all those cigarette butts into an art display. He says it’ll have a home at the new marine science center when it opens in September.
Mayor Sessions also says the city is looking to hire three new code enforcement officers to help curtail the littering and other beach offenses. Those interested can apply on the city’s website here.