Carteret Big Sweep Is Tackling Trash

— Written By Dee Smith
en Español

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Group photo on the pier from the Shackleford Banks Clean up

Group Photo from the Shackleford Banks Clean Up

Carteret Big Sweep came together with Cape Lookout National Seashore to clean the western end beach of Shackleford Banks on Wednesday, May 31. Shackleford Banks had a busy weekend due to the Memorial Day weekend boaters and ferry traffic.

On Wednesday, Island Express Ferry Services donated 16 spots for volunteers from Carteret Big Sweep many of which were staff or volunteers from the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Cape Lookout National Seashore is a challenging place to clean due to the remote island location. It is a challenge to get volunteers there and a challenge to get the trash off. Sea Tow also volunteered their time and services for this event to transport the huge pile of trash from the island back to the mainland. Without partnerships like Island Express Ferry Services and Sea Tow community clean ups with Carteret Big Sweep volunteers would not be possible.

Volunteers split into groups and went in 3 directions to cover as much of the island as possible during the clean up’s short allotted time. While groups of volunteers were on foot, trained ATV drivers pulled larger items such as canopy frames and other bulky items to the drop zone as well as picked up the bagged trash. An electric blanket was one of the most unusual items found. Also, there was evidence of campers by way of an abandon tent and grill. There were approximately 700 pounds of trash removed from the island during this clean up.

debris collected from the coast

Wooden Debris Removed During the Clean Up

Volunteers are given Ocean Conservancy data sheets to record all items collected during their cleanups. Most items the volunteers encounter are listed on this sheet and it is recommended they write in anything they don’t see listed. All data is compiled and sent to the Ocean Conservancy for research. Data is also being kept at the county level, in hopes of one day making a difference on the fight against marine debris and litter. “These data sheets are a vital part of the Big Sweep project, they are the record that gives us a picture of what is out there when it comes to marine debris and litter” says Dee Smith.

Ocean trash threatens marine life, the livelihoods of people who depend on the ocean and our health and safety. In Carteret County, many people depend on the ocean for their livelihood, whether it be one of the many fisherman in the county or businesses that depend on tourism. Carteret County strives to be a trash-free community that protects the safety of our citizens, wildlife and encourages repeat visitors to the Crystal Coast.

Carteret Big Sweep does environmental education for the community and schools, teaching both youth and adults the importance of a trash-free environment. There are clean ups all year long that cover the entire county. If you are interested in hosting or participating a clean up in Carteret County contact Dee Smith at or 252-222-6365 to secure a location and date. There are many locations and groups cleaning across the county throughout the year. To reduce duplication of clean up locations it is highly advised that all participants contact Carteret Big Sweep to register their clean up so their data can be recorded.

The next scheduled clean up will take place on Sugarloaf Island in Morehead City on June 20th from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., all interested participants should contact Dee Smith to register by June 17.