HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The largest volunteer cleanup event in South Carolina will take place on Saturday as thousands take part in the state’s 34th annual beach and river sweep.

Since 1988, more than 150,000 South Carolinians have volunteered to clean up waterways across the state, taking away more than 1,200 tons of tons. In 2022 alone, volunteers picked up more than 2,000 pounds of trash along 115 miles of the state’s shorelines.

“I never wanna break a record, because that means we’re not achieving any goal,” said Ann Wilson, a ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park. “So really it’s about the mindset that people can be more aware of what maybe other people are leaving behind.”

This year’s cleanup comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Idalia, which hit the area in late August, churning up the ocean and leaving behind trash that might have been miles offshore but is now on the beaches.

“It’s amazing what is out in that ocean right now that the calm waves are not washing in,” Wilson said. “Once you get a big storm coming in, it’s amazing how many sunglasses we find. Last year, in just a couple hours, I picked up over 3,000 cigarettes just in our mile section of beach.

Whether it’s sunglasses or cigarette butts, the litter needs to be out of the water and off the sand because of the danger it poses to wildlife and the potential damage to a huge part of the state’s economy.

“Who wants to go to a dirty beach, Wilson said. “If you go to a beach that is consistently dirty, has lots of trash, the garbage cans are overflowing, whether you’re a local or a visitor, you’re gonna move on.”

For the most part, Wilson said the state park was fortunate there wasn’t more damage during Idalia. She also said the park and the sand dunes at the beach are still recovering from Hurricane Ian nearly a year ago.

“We still have these little morning glories that survived the storm,” she said. “This is gonna be new growth for a sand dune if given time. Any new plants, sand is gonna keep growing. It’s gonna blow in with the wind, and then that’s gonna start creating your genesis of a new sand dune.” 

If you’re interested in helping with Saturday’s cleanup at the park, Wilson and others will meet at 9 a.m. at shelter No. 2.

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Taylor Maresca is the weekend morning anchor and morning reporter at News13. She joined the team in June 2022 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Taylor is from Houston. Follow Taylor on Twitter and read more of her work here.