MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Myrtle Beach was front and center Wednesday as Global Eco Adventures hosted the second Coastal Cleanup for World Ocean Day.
The event is a day of cleanup and awareness sanctioned by the United Nations. It is the largest U.N.-registered World Ocean Day event and the only one in the Carolinas this year. It took place in four locations: Myrtle Beach, Folly Beach, Maui, Hawaii and San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.
Cheyenne Cunningham, director of GEA Coastal Cleanup World Ocean Day, said Myrtle Beach was the only location for last year’s cleanup and that between 20 and 30 people participated. This year, the cleanup in Myrtle Beach attracted between 50 and 60 people.
About 200 showed up in Folly Beach and 70 participated in the Galapagos Islands.
“I have been studying the ocean my entire academic and early professional career,” Cunningham said. “I am so immensely passionate about it, specifically ocean and coastal policy. This was just an idea that I had that started snowballing, and look where we are now.”
She has high hopes for future events.
“I am really stoked and grateful for everyone to be involved, and I think it’s going to continue to grow every year,” she said.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette attended Wednesday’s event in Myrtle Beach. She said she has done beach cleanups with her daughter at her home for about six years. She said she hoped the day’s event would inspire others to keep Myrtle Beach clean going foward.
“When people see you picking up, they start to look around themselves,” Evette said. “So, I think we’re all in this together right, so when we clean up it inspires others to clean up. What we really need is to educate our children on why it’s so important, you know? Again South Carolina –- the most beautiful state in the country –-we want to make sure we keep it that way.”
Evette said beach cleanups are important because everything people leave on the beach ends up in the oceans.
“That’s not what we want,” she said. “We want to make sure people love our beaches, take care of our oceans.”
She said the beaches are part of who we are as South Carolinians because they make up a large portion of tourism in the state. Keeping them clean encourages people to come to the beach.
“We want them to come to South Carolina and enjoy the beauty God gave us,” she said.
Cunningham said oceans make up a large portion of our earth, so we must take care of them.
“The ocean is 72% of our planet, and it is so important to protect that 72% of our planet,”
Cunningham said. “Like I said, healthy oceans equal healthy humans. The ocean sustains us.”
She said she hopes people will build a positive relationship with the ocean.
“What people do not know, we cannot expect them to protect,” she said. “So if I can bring awareness or if we can bring awareness and help people establish a relationship or a connection with the ocean, they’re going to leave with a better sense of conservation, a better sense of purpose and they are going to be a whole lot more motivated to protect it.”
Picking up trash also helps keep microplastics out of our bodies.
“These microplastics are being ingested by marine life and we’re ingesting the marine life,” she said. “It’s a constant cycle, so its something we need to work on before its irreversible.”
Evette said she hopes to also be able to inspire other beach projects to keep abandoned beach toys out of the water.
“It would be a great Eagle Scout project if some of our Eagle Scouts out there wanted to build some boxes where people could deposit toys that they don’t want to take home, and then people that come that need a toy can take it out and use it,” she said. “It’s a great way to keep that out of the oceans.”
She said anyone interested in the project can contact her office, and she will help with the project.
Cunningham said totals for the amount of trash collected will be available within the next 48 hours after the trash is processed. Groups from Coastal Carolina University and the South Carolina Aquarium will be going through the collections from South Carolina.