Twice a year, the NNorthInletMarshSweepGroup2017SM_P1210763[218].jpgorth Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at Hobcaw organizes a marsh sweep in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy International Ocean Cleanup, where volunteers help to record and remove debris from the marsh. These sweeps help keep the marsh healthier as well as provide valuable information about pollution to caretakers. The TGS Environmental Science class takes a field trip to help out in the fall sweep, which was Sept. 15, 2017. This year, volunteers collected 12 bags of trash, weighing about 180 pounds, as well as an additional 150 pounds of construction materials. Though past TGS trips have found crazy things out on the marsh, such as a hobo logger and an entire floating dock, this year’s team didn’t find much out of the ordinary. After Irma, they expected unusual debris, but were instead confronted with the usual-excessive amounts of plastic bottles, fishing line, and Styrofoam pieces.
On the day of the field trip, the Environmental Science class geared up to go, dressed in old t-shirts, pants to protect them from sharp marsh grass, and rubber boots. They gathered in the marsh across the street from the USC lab in preparation, as the usual spot of Clam Bank had been flooded out by Irma, and forged ahead into the spartina grass. Their three hours under the hot sun were spent filling garbage bags full of debris, recording every piece of debris they found, and narrowly avoiding getting sucked into a patch of pluff mud. By the end of the day, everyone was covered in sweat and mud. The class returned to school tired but full of stories. Nearly everyone saw the shark’s tooth they brought back, hailed as the coolest find of the day.
Last year, volunteers collected 3,969,553 pounds of garbage in the United States alone. Worldwide, over 18 million pounds were removed from over 25,000 miles of coastline.