Nylon reusable trash bags on Sullivan’s Island are going to be at beachgoers’ disposal courtesy of town council. The environmental initiative is being adopted after one resident and his dog created a small task force.
On Nov. 19, council unanimously passed the motion to purchase $1,200 worth of trash bags for distribution to citizens at no cost. The funds will come from the town’s Accreted Land Management Budget and the bags will be embossed with the town’s seal. Resident Jeff Parrish is responsible for spearheading the coastal conservation movement.
Parrish retired to Sullivan’s Island four years ago to live out a relaxed and leisurely lifestyle. All he wanted to do was walk the beach every day with his redbone coonhound Elvis. Now, the duo makes it their mission to clean up any waste they come across on their travels.
In 2016, Parrish and Elvis were scouring trash from the beach when they stumbled into a couple walking the beach, Bill and Diane Brumley. The two parties noticed each other’s bags of collected litter and so began the brainwork for the collaboration.
The Brumley’s designed the bag with a lime green glow that can be spotted from a mile away on the beach. Parrish added a personal touch, the slogan “Leave only footsteps,” which was inspired by a beach sign he saw in Fort Bragg, Calif. before moving to the Lowcountry.
Since launching the trash bags on a small scale in 2016, Parrish estimates he’s personally handed out more than 200 bags. Every time he hands a bag out to a beachgoer, he gets permission to take their photo and posts it on his Instagram page “@elvis_saves_sullivans.”
Parrish said he patrols the beach for litter seven days a week and that he’s only missed one day since Hurricane Dorian. He confessed he’s missed one day since Hurricane Dorian. During 2017’s beach season, Parrish said he completed 363 days of cleanup, falling two days short of his goal.
Each day Parrish estimates he spends two to three hours on trash removal. On an average day he’ll collect 10 pounds. On a bad day he’ll gather close to 20 pounds.
Every time Parrish picks up an article of trash, he likes to think one less turtle or dolphin will die from plastic consumption. It’s reminders like these that fuel his eco-friendly fire.
“It’s mind boggling if I’ve walked a 1,000 days-plus and I pick up 10 pounds of trash a day that’s 10,000 pounds of trash that I’ve picked up,” Parrish said. “It’s just kind of phenomenal what one person can do with a little tenacity.”
Financially, Parrish is pleased to see the town lessening the burden by making an investment in the trash bags. He recalls the Brumleys purchasing the first 200 bags for $600.
Parrish stands by his bag theory versus more trash cans at beach access paths because he sees beachgoers as “walking trash cans.” He says not only are trash cans an eyesore, but says it’s not a foolproof method of containment unless there’s a secure lid.
“If you need a trash can, ask me for one. I’ve got one right here in my pocket,” Parrish said.
His goal from day one has been for Sullivan’s Island to be known as the cleanest beach in America. In fact, Parrish continues to spread the word on social media and hopes to talk it into existence.
“By the end of the day there’s no trash on this beach. Until the tide comes back in and brings more we’re good; we’ll get that in the morning,” Parrish added.
The town has placed their order of 400 trash bags and expects delivery to town hall by mid-December, according to town administrator Andy Benke.