By Elly Cosgrove | April 17, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT – Updated April 17 at 10:36 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Volunteers of all ages gathered to pick up litter Saturday in Wilmington.
City and state leaders, volunteers from the Plastic Ocean Project and UNCW students participated in the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s annual Spring litter sweep.
The NCDOT typically has a fall and spring litter sweep every year. Both sweeps were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“We did have to cancel our last two litter sweep programs,” said Eric Boyette, NCDOT Deputy Secretary who was at the event in Wilmington. “We had to be safe—that’s the first thing we want to make sure we’re safe as a state with our citizens and our employees. So now to be able to get out to have the volunteers that we need because volunteers are muscle, that’s our muscle to make sure that we do keep North Carolina clean and pick up our litter.”
Boyette said that the pandemic definitely decreased the amount of volunteers the department had and it showed in the amount of litter along North Carolina roadways.
“We still had the highway programs that we did, but even with that, you know, it takes a group,” Boyette said.
The Plastic Ocean Project recruited 25 people for the event in addition to city leaders and UNCW students. In total there were about 40 to 50 people picking up litter along North College Road and Sunn Aire Court.
The Plastic Ocean Project’s executive director said that the pandemic put a spotlight on just how much trash is generated in a year.
“People have been locked up for a year and for some reason, you know, people have not been out cleaning up,” said Bonnie Monteleone, Plastic Ocean Project executive director “It’s a really great example of just how much trash is being generated every year. So bringing people out of all ages to come clean up the environment it really just helps us understand how much trash.”
Monteleone said it’s essential that this litter gets picked up, so that it stays out of our rivers, waterways and ocean. She has done 10,000 nautical miles of research in some of the most remote places, and that plastic is sadly found everywhere.
“Probably the most important part of this story is that every piece of trash we pick up is a less probability it ends up in the ocean,” Monteleone said. “We have the great Cape Fear River, so if that trash is on the ground it has the potential to end up in the river and of course it’s going to go out right into the Atlantic.”
Mayor Bill Saffo participated in Saturday morning’s litter sweep as well as state representative Deb Butler and state senator Michael Lee.
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