St. Simons Island, Ga. – University of Georgia Marine Extension and Sea Grant are working to minimize litter during the Georgia-Florida tailgate on St. Simons Island and to clean up the beach afterwards.
In 2013, county workers and volunteers collected over 21,000 pounds of litter from St. Simons Island beaches, parks and parking lots over the course of the three-day football weekend. On game day, 172 volunteers arrived in the rain to clean up the shoreline. According to Katy Smith, Water Quality Program Coordinator for Georgia Sea Grant and UGA Marine Extension, some of this litter can be difficult to collect, such as broken fragments of plastic foam coolers.
“Some trash washes into the ocean, where it can be mistaken for food or impact water quality,” said Smith. “For example, sea turtles, which are a threatened species, can mistake underwater plastic bags for jellyfish and ingest them.”
To encourage greener tailgating, UGA is reaching out both to students in Athens and locals on St. Simons Island. Through education and clean up efforts, UGA aims to educate visiting tailgaters about the impact of any potential litter and how it can make its way into the ocean and harm marine life.
As coastal Public Service and Outreach units, Georgia Sea Grant and UGA Marine Extension are collaborating with the UGA Student Government Association, Alumni Association, Athletic Association and Greek Life to reach fans, launching a social media campaign that has garnered more than 1,000 followers on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GeorgiaFloridaAtStSimons.
After fans leave, Georgia Sea Grant and UGA Marine Extension will host the seventh annual Beach Sweep on St. Simons Island Nov. 1 starting at 7:30 a.m. on the Coast Guard Station beach boardwalk. This volunteer event will be held in partnership with Keep Brunswick-Golden Isles Beautiful, Glynn County, Green Scene of Coastal Georgia, Brunswick Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce and Georgia’s Coastal Resources Division of DNR.
“I am very happy that so many volunteers help each year,” said Greg Sullivan, president pro tempore of the UGA Student Senate. “But this year I would really like to reduce the amount of trash that is left behind, or at minimum make it easier for volunteers by ensuring that trash goes in trash bags and more recyclable coolers are used.”
In addition, hundreds of trash cans and recycling bins will be available along the beach during tailgating. Individual trash and recycling bags will be handed out as well. Parker’s convenience stores on St. Simons Island will sell special 100 percent recyclable UGA-themed coolers. From Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, they are offering to give these to visitors who trade in their undamaged plastic foam coolers, while supplies last.
Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia Marine Extension, units of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, conduct outreach, education and research on the Georgia coast to enhance coastal environmental, social and economic sustainability. UGA is a land- and sea-grant institution. For more information, see http://georgiaseagrant.uga.edu/.