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South Carolina Aquarium Fights Plastic Pollution

As you wander through the South Carolina Aquarium, you experience the state’s ecosystems from the mountains to the sea, all of which are woven together by an intricate network of waterways.

This is reflected in every region of our state; there’s no doubt that there’s an intrinsic relationship between communities and the waterways that connect them. However, this very connection is under grave threat due to the pervasive issue of plastic pollution.

The once-pristine wild habitats that have defined South Carolina’s natural beauty for generations are becoming increasingly polluted, with plastic emerging as one of the most common types of litter found. The lightweight nature of plastic, coupled with its durability, has made it a relentless problem in our waterways. Plastic of all sizes, from large objects to small fragments, travel effortlessly from local watersheds through creeks and rivers, into the coastal saltmarshes and ultimately find their way to the ocean. Along this path, plastic debris jeopardizes the health of many ecosystems, posing danger to aquatic life and water quality.

With a passion for protecting water, wildlife and wild places, the South Carolina Aquarium has become a leader in the realm of plastic pollution. Collaborating with communities across the state, the aquarium has initiated efforts to gather critical data on litter, aiming to identify the most problematic types of debris with a goal of finding solutions. Alarming statistics reveal that on average, 75% of the litter throughout South Carolina consists of plastic, of which roughly 50% comprises single-use items intended for swift disposal.

To alleviate this growing problem, the Aquarium leads and participates in litter sweeps throughout the state. In real-time, the goals are two-fold: Remove pollution and collect critical data on the type and location of litter to log in the Litter Journal, a project in the South Carolina Aquarium Citizen Science app, to be used to drive solutions-based conversations. But the long-term impact of these efforts is what’s truly instrumental. The value of this litter data goes beyond mere statistics; it serves as a blueprint for action, empowering communities and decision makers to craft effective solutions. This approach has already seen evidence of success, such as the enactment of single-use plastic ordinances and beach smoking bans, strategic placement of signage and trash receptacles, introduction of toy bins at high-traffic beach access points and the drive for in-water litter capture devices.

The aquarium does not do this work alone, and has a cohort of volunteers and partners who are just as dedicated to making a difference. Palmetto Pride, South Carolina’s dedicated anti-litter organization, works across all sectors to reduce litter in the state including supporting enforcement of litter laws, providing educational programs to thousands of students annually and providing funding to communities and organizations to carry out this work. The aquarium is grateful to have the support of Palmetto Pride in our quest to protect water, wildlife and wild places.

The fight against plastic pollution is not one that even these organizations can tackle alone; they need the collective efforts from South Carolina citizens, too. We have the power to make a difference in our daily lives — opting for alternatives to single-use plastic, supporting businesses committed to reducing plastic and actively participating in litter sweeps with data collection — that contribute significantly to the solution.

As we tackle this critical issue, it is essential to remember that our actions today will shape the environment that future generations inherit. We must take inspiration from the interwoven nature of South Carolina’s waterways to work together. By joining hands — citizens, communities, organizations and decision makers — we can make a difference.

Source : The Daniel Island News