Trash containment on Isle of Palm's beach has been a popular priority on both city council's and the citizens' agenda. One resident is pushing for the city to adopt a more sophisticated receptacle system that would feature trash cans with lids at all beach-access dumpsites.
At last week's city council meeting, during citizens comments, one resident rolled in a trash can as a visual aid. This wasn't unusual for those who know her past efforts, Katrina Limbach is the co-founder of the IOP Cleanup Crew.
Since Limbach started working on the dunes daily since 2009, she's noticed how the amount of trash on the beach varies seasonally. Based of firsthand experience, she claims the city's current plastic trash cans are insufficient when it comes to containing litter.
In the spring of 2018, Limbach addressed city staff in search of a grassroots approach to conduct beach sweeps. She was put in contact with councilmember and Public Works Committee vice-chair Susan Hill Smith. The two then co-founded the IOP Cleanup Crew.
"Trina deserves a great deal of credit for digging in and tackling the beach trash issue in a lot of ways," Smith said. "The lidded trash cans she has pointed us to look like they can be a really smart solution to a problem the city must address."
While helping pick up more than 23,000 pieces of rubbish from that beach last summer, Limbach said she began to observe where a major source of the debris were coming from. The trash cans.
"The trash cans down at Front Beach have not been the most durable," Limbach said. "There's been a lot of public interest with our organization, our volunteers and members of the community about getting trash cans that are both weighted and have lids on them."
One of the most common recurrences Limbach has seen are beachgoers trying to stuff the trash cans with broken umbrellas and bogeyboards. Then, more trash is piled loosely on top which makes it more susceptible to blow away.
Limbach, who's also a co-owner of the IOP Beach Chair Company, recalled when picking up chairs on the beach, especially after storms, trash cans would sometimes be tipped over and waste would be spilling into the ocean with the tide. This contamination caused her to research more reliable mechanisms of trash confinement.
"The cans the city currently uses cannot be counted on to keep trash secure because they are vulnerable in high winds and large tides," Smith said. "Trash can fly out of overstuffed cans, and the cans sometimes tip over. It does not happen frequently, but it shouldn't be happening at all."
"Once people put items into those cans, it's the city's responsibility to make sure the trash is taken off the beach and doesn't get into the ecosystem," Smith added.
In July 2018, Limbach looked into the city's current trash pick-up system, which operates on a 'pack and load' dump truck. Under this system, the trash is collected manually dumped into the truck.
The city expressed to Limbach there would be too much man-power required if they were to switch to trash cans that featured lids. However, Limbach discovered a 60-gallon trash can made from recycled plastic, built by Toter, that's specifically designed for the truck to mechanically grab it with its arm and dump it. This gravity-fed process allows for no hands-on labor.
"They're really rugged, really heavy duty. They're built for this," Limbach said.
Limbach inherited the idea from the City of Myrtle Beach's Public Works Department. She credited Myrtle Beach Parks Superintendent Richard Kirby for recommending the trash can and sharing how it's brought the city success.
When Limbach presented her idea to the Public Works Committee last year, the trash can's concept received a lot of positive feedback but the price tag raised some eyebrows. A singe trash can retails for roughly $300. However, if you purchase in bulk, they discount to $280 a can.
Limbach estimates it would cost the city approximately $20,000 to replace all of the trash cans on the island. There are about 70 cans in total, including in-land sites and beach access paths.
"The good news is that this community has a heart for the environment," Smith said. "I'm sure many businesses, organizations and individuals would gladly pitch in to cover any extra costs as Trina has suggested."
Limbach's idea remained idle throughout last winter as the beach season became dormant. Then, this July, the city wanted to demo one of Limbach's trash cans. So she sponsored the first one out of her own pocket.
Limbach has yet to hear back if the city has tested her trash can, but she plans on following up on the status this week. She hopes her trash can proposal will someday become part of the solution to pollution on Isle of Palms.
The Public Works Committee will present its findings regarding Limbach's proposal on Aug. 7 at 9 a.m.