Beach Sweep/River Sweep

The coastal portion of the 29th annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep, originally scheduled for Sept. 16, is set for Oct. 21. Volunteers are needed. File/David Quick/Staff 

The largest trash cleanup of the year in South Carolina returns on Sept. 19 with the 27th annual Beach Sweep/River Sweep/Marsh Sweep.

And while that’s a couple weeks away, now is the time to sign up and organize friends and family to show a little late summer love to the places we love.

Susan Ferris Hill, the sweep’s coastal coordinator with the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, said it’s important to sign up for the event before Sept. 10 for several reasons.

“The site captains need a fairly accurate count of the number of volunteers to expect so that they can map out where to place the volunteers at a particular location,” said Hill. “I also need to know how many volunteers plan on participating to make sure I package the appropriate amount of supplies for each site captain.”

Along with sweeps on the barrier and sea islands, Hill said marshes, creeks and rivers also need site captains and cleanup crews.

Also, Hill said this week is the ideal time for people to help organizers find locations in need of cleanup that aren’t currently being covered. If so, contact Hill at susan.ferris.hill@scseagrant.org or 953-2092.

She is currently looking to add teams to both ends of the U.S. Highway 17 “crosstown” where trash collects under the bridges and “rarely, if ever, gets picked up.”

“There are nearly 30 site captains in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties who need volunteers. The best way to sign up is to contact the site captain directly to let them know you’d like to join their group,” said Hill, pointing people to the Sea Grant’s beach sweep page for those contacts at www.scseagrant.org/Content/?cid=49#capt.

Ultimately weather plays a critical role in the success of the event.

Last year, the rain and wind from a distant Hurricane Edouard caused a dip in participation.

In 2014, 3,137 volunteers in coastal South Carolina collected 13.75 tons of trash. In better conditions in 2013, 4,558 coastal volunteers collected over 18 tons of trash.

Many volunteers attempt to recycle as much of that trash as possible.

Beach Sweep/River Sweep takes place in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup, coordinated by the Ocean Conservancy, which tallies debris data.

The Palmetto State’s cleanup, organized by the Sea Grant Consortium and S.C. Department of Natural Resources, has taken place annually since 1988 when Sea Grant first started it as a beach sweep, though it skipped the following year when Hurricane Hugo hit the day before the second event was to be held.

The cleanup is funded almost entirely by private donations, both cash and in-kind.

From 2010 to 2014, a total of 16,895 coastal volunteers cleared 71 tons of debris, covering 1,139 miles. The total dollar value of coastal volunteers’ time during this period was $604,580, according to Independent Sector and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.