09/12/12 — Volunteers sought for Big Sweep

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Volunteers sought for Big Sweep

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 12, 2012 1:46 PM

The cigarette someone threw out of their car on the highway will be there for up to five years. That foam cup someone tossed to the side of the road won't break down for 50 years. And the water bottle someone dropped in the park won't decompose for 450 years.

Every day, more and more trash ends up in the environment, causing harm to the animals and posing breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases.

To combat the problem, Wayne County volunteers -- young and old alike -- will soon be donning gloves and arming themselves with garbage bags for the 2012 Big Sweep. The event will take place Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to clean sites this year. You can ask for a site that's cleaned each year, such as Cliffs of the Neuse State Park or Waynesborough Park, or you can pick your own area to clean. You will receive trash bags and data cards from Big Sweep.

"We are asking groups and individuals to help clean ditches because when it rains, any debris in the ditch will find its way into a stream and eventually out into the waterway," local Big Sweep coordinator Barbara Byers said.

"Depending on what the debris is, it can hurt animals out in the wild. And it just doesn't look good. So if you're going to the river to fish and there's all this trash all around, it's unattractive, plus it provides breeding grounds for mosquitos."

Not only does trash hurt the environment, but it hurts the economy, according to Ms. Byers.

Businesses won't want to relocate to a trashy area, and tourists avoid areas that are littered with trash.

And as litter decomposes, it puts chemicals into the ground water.

Trash tossed aside today won't be gone tomorrow.

According to the United States National Park Service Mote Marine Lab, here's how long it takes some items to decompose:

* cigarette filter, one to five years

* plastic bag, 10 to 20 years

* plastic foam cup, 50 years

* tin can, 50 years

* aluminum can, 80 to 200 years

* plastic beverage bottle, 450 years

* monofilament fishing line, 600 years

Last year, 227 volunteers cleaned 15 1/2 miles of waterways and roadways, picking up 54 bags of trash weighing 1,985. Sites included Herman Park, Berkeley Park, Mount Olive Community Gardens, Stoney Creek Park, part of U.S. 13 and Northeast, Northwest Elementary, Eastern Wayne Elementary, Grantham Elementary, Tommy's Road Elementary and Goldsboro High schools.

According to Ms. Byers, the most common piece of trash picked up was once again cigarette butts.

But volunteers last year also found a hobby horse at Waynesborough Park, along with a Quaker furnace.

"Other volunteers found shoes," Ms. Byers said. "And at one of the elementary schools, they found pencils -- lots of pencils.

"A Girl Scout troop cleaned the community gardens in Mount Olive, and they found an old dumpsite with lots of bricks, glass and metal. They spent the whole morning digging that stuff up."

Big Sweep started in 1987 as Beach Sweep to remove unsightly and harmful litter from the state's coastline. In 1989, it expanded and renamed Big Sweep, becoming the nation's first statewide waterway cleanup. In 2002, its mission expanded further to include not only making the waters litter free, but striving to make the whole environment litter free.

For more information about this year's Big Sweep or to volunteer, call Ms. Byers at 731-1520.