Cure the beaches of litterbugs infestations

Cure the beaches of litterbugs infestations

Each spring, South Padre Island draws crowds of college students from all over the country for Spring Break — 2016 was no exception, drawing in nearly 25,000 visitors to the 2.3 square mile island.

With a permanent population of less than 3,000 people, South Padre Island hosts these visitors with open beaches, but at a hefty price to the South Texas coast ecosystem.

South Padre Island’s legal beachside consumption of alcohol causes college students to haul their containers in bulk, only to leave them in the sand without a second thought. Even with the threat of ticketing by state troopers, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officials, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens, and the addition of two drones, spring break partiers caused massive beach pollution on South Padre Island. And though glass containers are illegal — with giant signs serving as reminders of the $500 fine — the beach is left sprinkled with plastic, aluminum and glass containers alike.

While this pollution is usually treated as a Spring Break norm, this year’s increase in trash on the beach has resulted in a spike in social media posts about the pollution, outing the visitors for their environmental crimes. This small, viral attempt to hold these litterbugs accountable for their actions is one small step in a greater need for Spring Break regulation in South Padre Island.

The two-week spring break is reported as South Padre Island’s busiest time frame, along with the summer months of June and July, making stricter regulation a bittersweet affair. Sweet ensuring the beach to maintain its attraction as a Texas hotspot, bitter by discouraging sales that the small island thrives off of.