North Carolina Big Sweep is the nation’s first state-wide watershed litter clean-up and prevention campaign. In 1986, the Ocean Conservancy organized the Interntional Coastal Cleanup as a response to sea-borne litter that was taking a toll on mammals, birds, fish, turtles, and other sea life. North Carolina joined the ICC in 1987 when Dr. Lundie Spence of NC Sea Grant began "Beach Sweep." During the first two years, Beach Sweep focused on counties with marine coastline, but in 1988, organizers realized that litter found on our beaches often originates elsewhere. In 1989, "Beach Sweep" became "Big Sweep", with a focus on waterways in all 100 counties of North Carolina. By 2002, the emphasis shifted from waterways to watersheds. This shift meant that Big Sweep would devote attention to all 51,000+ Square miles of the state, regardless of water access.
In 2004, the North Carolina Zoo was asked to coordinate Big Sweep for Randolph County. The Zoo's Conservation Captains accepted this responsibility, mobilizing 107 volunteers at 8 sites across the county. In 2005, 181 volunteers participated at 11 sites, breaking the all-time participation numbers. In an effort to spread the word to an even greater audience, a classroom program was developed in 2006 meeting several of the Fifth Grade Science curriculum goals. Programs were initially offered to fifth grade classes in the Asheboro City Schools. Volunteer participation reached 815 individuals, with 281 participating on the single day community clean up event. Service clubs, ROTC programs, and environmental organizations were recruited, and the first boat-only cleanup on the Deep River was done.
The Randolph County Clean-up Campaign was awarded the 2006 Caroline Parker Outstanding Achievement Award by the NC Big Sweep Board of Directors. This is the highest recognition given to an individual county program, and each year, only one award is made. Bob Langston was also recognized by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources with a Sustainability Award for accomplishments as County Coordinator. The 2007 campaign showed continued growth, including 1,229 individuals, at 28 separate sites or cleanup events.
The Zoo coordinates NC Big Sweep activities within Randolph County. To find information about your county's cleanup activities, visit NC Big Sweep's Web Site at www.ncbigsweep.org.