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South Carolina Aquarium Launches “Sweeps Across South Carolina”

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From the mountains to the sea, plastic pollution has permeated into the landscapes that we love, but that is not the only environmental challenge looming large in South Carolina. Frequent flooding caused by heavy rain, storm surge and higher than normal tides threaten South Carolinians’ way of life and exacerbate the issue of litter entering watersheds. In an effort to compile data and remove trash from South Carolina’s waterways, the Aquarium is partnering with the South Carolina Floodwater Commission and the SC7 Expedition for a year-long litter sweep initiative called Sweeps Across South Carolina.

“We are excited to partner with the South Carolina Floodwater Commission and SC7 for Sweeps Across South Carolina. This joint initiative will draw attention to litter and plastic pollution and serve as an important reminder that we are all connected through the intricate web of waterways that are the lifeblood of our state,” says Aquarium conservation programs manager, Kelly Thorvalson.

The goals of the South Carolina Floodwater Commission are to identify a comprehensive solution to alleviate flood impacts in South Carolina, with a focus on coastal and river-based communities. The chairman of the South Carolina Floodwater Commission and active board member of the South Carolina Aquarium, Tom Mullikin, has identified the importance of clearing debris from waterways as an important mitigation tactic to prevent flooding in suburban areas.

“One of the critical objectives of the South Carolina Floodwater Commission is to clear the trash and debris from our state’s waterways to allow natural water flow from the mountains to the sea,” Mullikin explains.  “We are proud to partner with the internationally recognized South Carolina Aquarium to meet this objective across our beautiful state.”

Mullikin also leads the SC7 Expedition, a hike from the mountains to the sea of South Carolina aimed at raising awareness of the state’s ecological wonders and encouraging citizens to protect these natural resources. The expedition occurs in the summer, but the efforts to spread their message happen year-round. As a partner in Sweeps Across South Carolina, the SC7 team will help engage local communities to protect what they love: the nature that surrounds them.

Each month, representatives from the Aquarium, South Carolina Floodwater Commission and SC7 will travel to a different region of the state. They will partner with a local organization that will help identify an appropriate location for that month’s socially distanced litter sweep. The trash collected will be catalogued and entered into the Litter-Free Digital Journal (LFDJ), a project of the Aquarium’s Citizen Science app. The project allows individuals and groups to track the types of debris being collected and provides data that is critical to understanding the most harmful types of litter. This data will help communities become their own best advocates.

Identifying the most problematic types of litter is critical to finding solutions to litter and plastic pollution. Thorvalson shares that, “Data collected from litter sweeps and entered in to the LFDJ over the last five years has helped inform many of the single-use plastic bans in South Carolina.”

Sweeps Across South Carolina events will be public and available to anyone looking to make an impact in their community. Whether you reside in the Lowcountry, Midlands, Upstate, Pee Dee or Grand Strand, there will be opportunity to participate to help protect water, wildlife and wild places.  Supplies will be provided and participants are encouraged to dress for the weather, bring a reusable water bottle and wear a mask (required).

More information and updates about the litter sweep series can be found on the Aquarium’s Facebook page.

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