With the guidance of Harry Corbett from Experience Green, a local non-profit, four members of the Bluffton Middle School National Junior Honor Society learn about sorting the trash that came from the May River during the 2015 clean-up. Working to earn com

The 16th annual May River Cleanup will be held from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 23 at Oyster Factory Park at the end of Wharf Street. The event will be followed by the sixth annual Earth Day Celebration from noon to 2 p.m.

This year’s cleanup and celebration highlight the continued efforts by the Town of Bluffton and partners Experience Green and i2 Recycle to work towards a Zero Waste Goal.

This means that at least 90 percent of waste, debris and litter collected during the cleanup and Earth Day celebration is diverted through repurposing, recycling, composting or reusing of the materials.

Volunteers are needed and are encouraged to arrive at 8:45 a.m. to enjoy coffee from the Bluffton Starbucks. All supplies will be provided by event partners, including Neighbors for Clean Water, Palmetto Pride, Keep Beaufort Country Beautiful and Beaufort County Recycles.

A free lunch, courtesy of the Hardeeville Walmart Superstore, will be available after the event, served on compostable Be Green Packaging dishware.

This year, volunteers also will have the opportunity to mark storm drains with a “No Dumping, Drains to Waterways” tile (see article, page 18A). Storm drain markings increase residents’ awareness about the direct connection between their yards, the street and storm drains, and the May River.

Beaufort County’s large expanses of salt marsh, tidal rivers and deep channels provide for a high level of biodiversity, allowing wildlife such as oysters, dolphins and cobia, to flourish.

This also means that the ecosystem is sensitive to the environmental pollutants found in the stormwater that drains into rivers and streams, carrying pollutants with it.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stormwater runoff is the number one cause of environmental degradation of the nation’s rivers and streams,” said Kim Jones, division director of stormwater for the Town of Bluffton.

“Some simple things folks can do are pick up their pets’ waste, reduce their fertilizer use, maintain their vehicles, maintain their septic systems, and maintain the stormwater treatment systems, such as ponds and storm drains, found in their communities,” Jones said.

The Town of Bluffton is also looking for volunteer boaters and kayakers to help with the river cleanup.

Those who have a boat or kayak available are asked to arrive 30 minutes early to keep traffic minimal.

Those without their own kayaks may reserve one for the cleanup by contacting Marshgrass Adventures at 843-684-3296.

Last year, due to inclement weather, much of the event had to be canceled. This, combined with the natural degradation of collected waste, led to only a 59 percent recycle rate.

However, with the combined efforts of nearly 250 participants, 1,691 lbs. of waste were collected from the May River and Old Town Bluffton roadways, with half a ton of material diverted through environmentally safe processes.

The Earth Day celebration offers family friendly activities and exhibits from local environmental organizations.

This part of the day’s events is hosted by Experience Green, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainability and improving Beaufort Country through proper care of the environment and its people, and the Outside Foundation, an organization whose mission is to get kids outside and help protect the environment through their recycling and Kids in Kayaks programs.

For more information on the Cleanup, please contact Beth Lewis, stormwater technician, at 706-4559 or blewis@townofbluffton.com.

Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.