TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — Throughout the month of August, the City of Tybee Island wants people to keep their butts off the beach.
For its second year, the city is teaming up with other coastal communities and local groups to promote cigarette litter prevention.
Bars and restaurants on Tybee will participate in the “Georgia’s Coast is Not an Ashtray” campaign starting Friday, Aug. 16. At least 30 locations will serve drinks with 25,000 special coasters that have the campaign slogan on them.
It’s all in an effort to spread the message around the island for residents and visitors to dispose of cigarette butts the right way.
“The coasters are a nice little reminder to be mindful that we have one planet,” said Allyson Wilczewski, assistant manager for the Deck Beach Bar and Kitchen, located on Tybee.
“Tybee’s tiny, but it’s beautiful, so we really all have to do our part,” Wilczewski told News 3.
Groups like Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers and Keep Savannah Beautiful will join the City of Tybee Island this month in promoting the message to dispose of cigarette waste properly, especially along beaches and waterways.
Cigarette butts are considered the greatest source of ocean trash on the planet, a recent study found.
“Beach rules” signs along Tybee even read: “Cigarette butts are litter,” to remind smokers to put them where they belong — in the trash.
Kate Burns, a member of the Tybee Island Beach Task Force, who is assisting with the campaign, told News 3 that the amount of butts collected locally in recent years has been staggering.
“Every week, Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers go out and clean litter off the beach,” Burns said. “They’ve been collecting information over the last several years, and our colleagues there have collected over a three-year period somewhere in the range of 750,000 cigarette butts.”
One of the major problems with cigarette butts is that they’re not easily biodegradable due to the type of plastic they’re made of. It’s possible that cigarette butts can take anywhere from 10 to 15 years to break down, according to RiverKeepers.org.
The butts not only pollute the environment, but they harm the wildlife and marine life that get exposed to this waste. They often end up consuming them.
“We’ve seen different types of fish and mammals who have their bellies opened up, and we’ve found trash, plastic, cigarette butts, all kinds of things in their intestines,” Burns said.
“So, we know the fish are eating them, and we would prefer that they eat other baby fish.”
In addition to “Georgia’s Coast is Not an Ashtray” coasters, campaign members will also be handing out free portable ashtrays.
They also plan to add more ash receptacles, or “ash cans”, to areas that need them. Burns said the ones currently placed along Tybrisa are often full, which is a good thing.
She added that the goal is not to get smokers to kick their habit, but to encourage them to discard their cigarette butts in a more responsible way.
“We hope [people] do get the message, and over time, if we can’t get people to do it responsibly, then people are going to have to move to smoke-free beaches,” Burns said.