TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — A group of six Tybee Island families have come up with a way to give new life to hundreds of discarded or forgotten beach toys.
With the help of Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, the group developed the Re-Beachables program to help find homes for refurbished toys that once littered the coastline.
The project initially began two years ago, according to co-organizer Lea Lynch.
“Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers contacted me and said, ‘we have a truckload of toys that we’ve recovered from our beach cleanups, is there something that you can do with these?’” said Lynch, who has led several Tybee Island community projects in the past.
She enlisted the help of local families, including her own daughters, to restore the colorful assortment of abandoned plastic buckets, shovels and other items.
“The kids got together and cleaned every single one of those toys,” Lynch told WSAV NOW.
“It turned out that it was not only something that they were capable of doing, it was actually something really fun for them, because what kid doesn’t love playing with water?” Lynch said.
“If you give them a scrub brush and some bubbles, they have a great time doing it,” she added.
Kelly Jones and her children, Elia and Knox Cayton, are one of the families participating in the Re-Beachables program.
She says they helped out with the project last year, and this time around, Elia and Knox tidied up about 40 beach toys.
“I think any community project like this that brings people together toward a common goal is important, especially one as important as keeping microplastics out of the ocean,” Jones said, adding, “Everybody working together kind of brings more awareness as a community to the problem in general.”
Tim Arnold, manager of Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, says the Re-Beachables program is a follow-up to their successful sale of around 500 toys at local farmer’s markets in 2019.
“We collect over 500 good quality beach toys off the beach each year, and unfortunately, it’s more like 1,000, because most of them are broken,” Arnold told WSAV NOW.
“I think the thinking there is that somebody else will pick it up and use it, but nobody does that because they think it might be somebody else’s toy,” he said.
“The reality is that they stay on the beach and eventually they break down,” Arnold said, adding, “In fact, the microplastic that we find on Tybee’s beaches — and we find a lot of it — almost all of it comes from beach toys, which break into small pieces pretty easily.”
He says the willingness of the group of families to clean and repurpose the toys solved a “huge problem” of figuring out what to do with all the potentially reusable toys.
The ones that can be restored will find new homes through the Re-Beachable program and the efforts of local families.
The cleaned toys will be placed in reusable bags and handed out to guests of Tybee’s Mermaid Cottages vacation rentals, and will also be made available to Tybee’s residents.
“Diane Kaufman, who’s also the co-founder of Fight Dirty Tybee, expressed a great interest in putting free bags in her cottages this spring, keeping them full of beach toys and explaining to her guests that instead of buying them, they can use those cleaned-up beach toys and either leave them in a cottage or take them with them,” Arnold explained.
He says the key to finding solutions to the problem of beach litter is getting the younger generations to recognize the issues.
“Anytime we can have children involved in the problem, it’s just a win all the way across the board,” Arnold said.
“When kids go out on a beach cleanup and come back with cigarette butts, straws and broken toys, they’re a little bit angry,” he said.
“They want to know why there are so many left on the beach, so they become very aware of the problem early on, and then they advocate for better policies or just people to be responsible for their own litter,” he said.
Lynch notes that since the Re-Beachables bags are also reusable, they may encourage families to pick up any left-behind beach toys on their own.
“We do want to break this cycle,” Lynch said.
“We don’t want to find Re-Beachables on the beach during future beach cleanups, we want whoever takes these toys to take good care of them, reuse them and bring them back home when they’re done with their day at the beach,” she said.