10/01/13 — Annual Big Sweep cleanup to be held Saturday across county

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Annual Big Sweep cleanup to be held Saturday across county

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 1, 2013 1:46 PM

Trash tossed along highways and waterways pollutes the environment and can even have effects many miles away from where it was first discarded.

On Saturday, Wayne County volunteers will try to reduce the amount of trash entering the environment as the annual Big Sweep cleanup takes place.

Barbara Byers, coordinator of the event, said volunteers will work from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at different spots around the county.

There are sites that need to be cleaned that volunteers can sign up for. Or they can choose their own site.

Volunteers have picked up gloves, bags and data cards at the Wayne Center in preparation for the event. The data cards are from the Ocean Conservancy and are used to track what kind and how much trash is picked up. After Big Sweep, the cards should be returned to Ms. Byers at the Wayne Center.

Some of the groups already signed up include Southern Wayne High School's Interact Club, students from Wayne Community College, Whep 4-H Club, the 4-H Livestock Club, TEACH 4-H Club, Girl Scouts and seven 4-H after-school sites. They will be cleaning Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, Waynesborough Park and behind Berkeley Mall.

Last year, 203 Wayne County volunteers cleaned 23 miles at 17 sites, collecting 1,500 pounds of trash, Ms. Byers said.

She said that cigarette butts remain the number one item picked up and that they can last in the environment for five years. Plastic bags can last 20 years, beverage cans anywhere from 80 to 200 years and plastic bottles up to 450 years.

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

"Businesses won't want to relocate to a trashy area, and tourists avoid areas that are littered with trash," she said. "And when you travel from place to place and see all this trash on the highway, it's ugly and people don't want to come to a place or even stop at a place that's trashy."

Ms. Byers said 18 percent of trash that ends up in the waterways starts on land.

"Trash tossed aside today won't be gone tomorrow," she said.

For more information about Big Sweep or to volunteer, call Ms. Byers at 919-731-1527.

Here are safety tips for Big Sweep volunteers:

* Wear closed-toe shoes that can get wet and muddy, such as old tennis shoes. Don't go barefoot.

* Wear hats or visors for protection.

* Take insect repellent and sunscreen.

* Wear comfortable old clothes that you can get dirty. Long pants that can be rolled up are a good idea for walking through brush and undergrowth.

* Take water and a small snack.

* Take garden, work or rubber gloves in case you pick up or pull out large trash or rusty items.

* Don't pick up any medical debris, chemical containers or barrels, pesticides or other toxic substances. Mark them and tell the Big Sweep coordinator where they are located.

* Avoid touching injured or wild animals that may bite or be infected.