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Every 'butt' counts: New project aimed at cleaning up cigarette butts

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They are small, but mighty -- cigarette butts. The Grand Strand Cigarette Litter Reduction Project is working to clean up the butts and stop the cycle.

“Every butt counts, so to speak. Every little bit of litter, every little action that we take whether it's good or bad has an impact, there are many people on this planet so every piece of litter matters," Lisa Swanger, Coastal Waccamaw Watershed Education Programs Coordinator, said.

The program was funded through the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program.

The project has three main goals: educate the public, monitor cigarette butt litter at three testing sites and install cigarette butt receptacles.

The sites include: Myrtle Beach State Park and Garden City beaches in Horry County, and the Wacca Wache river landing in Georgetown County

They say cigarette butts can be very harmful.

“Cigarette butts primarily enter aquatic environments through improper disposal. So whether that’s on the beach, on the river at the river access or across our landscape such as out of a car window or on the sidewalk, those butts will again be carried to our nearest storm drains, [into the storm water] and make it to our water ways," Swanger said.

And when that happens, there can be some major consequences.

“Rivers and oceans provide much more than just recreation. We get a lot of our clean drinking water from our rivers and if we can help protect and keep those rivers clean you wont be drinking polluted water," Cara Shildtknecht, the Waccamaw River Keeper, said.

Swanger said it is also dangerous for sea creatures.

“Cigarette litter has a number of environmental concerns or impacts. The first of which is ingestion. So wildlife, such a s fish or birds might mistake cigarette butts as food and once it gets into their system it can lead to a number of health concerns or complications such as chocking, blockage of the gut or poisoning," Swanger said.

And if every person changes the mind set of 'it's just one butt' some big changes could happen. It's about properly disposing of cigarette butts.

“You’re just one person. Think of all the people in this world who might think the same way and if you're just that one person, maybe you showing other people that you care and actually disposing of your cigarette butt properly will encourage them to do the same," Shildtknecht said.

For more information on the project, click here.

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