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      Fall cleaning: beach sweeps give our area a beauty boost

      On Saturday, communities across the state and along the Grand Strand participated in annual beach and river sweeps.

      North Myrtle Beach was among the communities to participate. This was the city's 25th annual beach and creek sweep hosted by The Keep North Myrtle Beach Beautiful Committee, which is aimed at cleaning its ocean, creek, and marsh areas.

      "We are cleaning our city. We want to keep it clean. It's very important. The aesthetics of our community really tells the story about who we are in North Myrtle Beach," said Marilyn Hatley, who participated in the clean-up along Ocean Boulevard Saturday morning.

      A big piece of North Myrtle Beach's identity is tourism. Although tourists bring in a lot of cash to the local economy, they also play a part in the amount of trash throughout the city.

      Bottles, bottle caps, straws, paper and plastic bags were some of the most common items collected during the sweep. However, many volunteers said the biggest trash culprit in the area was cigarette butts.

      "I've hit over 200 already and it's not even an hour," said Paul Kerber, a first-time, beach clean-up volunteer.

      However, trash wasn't the only thing that people saw. Joan Schuster, a volunteer saw fewer bottles along the side of the road than she did last year.

      Schuster was volunteering with the Driftwood Garden Club, which was one of dozens of local groups to sponsor the event.

      Each group was given a sheet to track both the type and amount of trash they collected during the sweep.

      The data will then be gathered by the Ocean Conservancy to help make sense of the findings and to identify ways to help communities mitigate and prevent litter in the future.