litter

Free Newspapers Saved From Becoming Litter

By Linda Longo

"I thought to take the photo after I picked up the papers, but notice the green NYC recycling box in the background."

On many New York City street corners you’ll see those free newspaper boxes.   There’s one on my block in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.   Every so often I’ll notice our box is tipped over and the wind has scattered the free papers and everyone walks past oblivious. I’ve done it too. I’ll walk past thinking “well, I should pick it all up because a garbage can is right there”,  then I’m two blocks past and figure someone else will do the good deed.   This Sunday on my way to the local farmer’s market on 5th avenue and 4th street I saw that the wind was really enjoying the free papers.  The entire box was tipped over and the flimsy lid was open.  I placed my grocery cart off to the side and began to pick up the heaps of newspapers.  I quickly noticed the papers were not badly damaged so I righted the tipped over box and proceeded to place the papers back inside.  The few that were muddy I conveniently placed in the green NYC newspaper recycling box just feet away.   No one pointed and laughed at me like I secretly imagined they would.  People kept to their business, but I hope they noticed me because maybe the next time they see spilled free papers they’ll do the same.

I don’t go around picking up trash on a regular basis because I don’t want to get dirty, but that’s my hang up.  We need to understand that trash makes it way to the streets and into the sewer openings where it clogs our drainage system.  And when as little as 2” of rain happens our NYC sewers can get overwhelmed and sometimes this trash ends up in our waterways.  So if we all take a little effort to think about putting our gum wrappers in our pockets till we pass a trash can, or picking up the spilled newspapers, we’ll all contribute just a little to the welfare of our city.  And by the way, on the way home from the market I saw a lady open the free newspaper box and take one.  That made my day.

About the author: Linda started her career with EPA in 1998 working in the water quality program. For the past 7 years she’s helped regulated facilities understand how to be in compliance with EPA enforcement requirements. Outside of work Linda enjoys exploring neighborhoods of NYC, photographing people in their everyday world, and sewing handbags made from recycled materials that she gives to her friends.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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What’s in Your Town’s Litter?

By Nancy Grundahl

Litter! Oh how I hate it! I hate it so much I decided to do something about it. I started picking it up. Every work day I take a bag with me and pick up litter on my walk home from the train station. I am always amazed at how much I find.

After a while I noticed a curious thing about the litter in the town where I live. Most of our litter is food-related: beverage cans, bottles and bottle caps, straws, candy and gum wrappers, take-out containers, plastic utensils, napkins… A distant second is paper, mainly ATM and store receipts and old mail that escaped from our paper recycling pickup on Mondays.

So, I searched the web and found, much to my surprise, that what I am finding is not unusual. Food-related waste makes up the highest percentage of litter in other places in the U.S. too. Here is a sample of what I found.

·    Northeast 2010 Litter Survey of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire Conducted for the American Beverage Association

o    “Miscellaneous paper and plastic (odd scraps of material) comprised the two largest components of litter; candy, snack wrappers, and fast food packaging together represented between 29 and 30 percent of litter; and beverage containers was similar, ranging from 5.6 percent to 7.9 percent.”

·    Clean Water Action – California

o    “Most of the products collected were food and beverage packaging: 48 percent food packaging, 19 percent beverage packaging, 15 percent non-packaging, 9 percent other packaging, 9 percent tobacco packaging.”

·    City of Hampton, Virginia

  • “Fast food, snack, tobacco, and other packaging dominated the types of litter that were larger than 4 inches in size – they were 46 percent of the total.”
  • “Main Types of Litter – Fast Food Waste 33 percent”
  • “The items most often found during litter cleanups are fast-food wrappers. The second-most-often found items are aluminum beer cans, followed very closely by soda cans.”

Have you ever thought about what’s in your town’s litter? The next time there is a cleanup day, go a step further and count and categorize the wastes you collect. You might even want to take some photos. Or, do as I have, start picking up litter on your walks and see what you find.

Why is this important? What you discover will be helpful when looking for the best approach to preventing the litter in the first place. When you figure out the sources, you’ll have a better idea of how to make it stop.

About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created. Nancy also writes for the “Healthy Waters for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region” blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Day is My Birthday

studentHello, my name is Christina and I’m 12 years old.  The reason why I am so engaged in the environment is because of two things. First, my birthday falls on April 22nd, Earth Day. I love the fact that my birthday falls on such an important day.  The second reason is because I love animals so much.

This year, on my birthday, my mom bought me an apple tree.  It is already starting to grow apples.  Every year on my birthday, we always do something for Earth Day at home and at school. Last year, my class brought in old plastic water bottles, coffee containers, etc.  Then we planted flowers in them, watching them grow through the year.  My mom calls me a flower child.  The year before that, we went outside to a trail that was covered in litter and helped pick it up, cleaning it up for everyone to enjoy.  That’s not all.  I’ve installed hummingbird feeders also because they’re important in the flower/ plant pollination process.  I think that having my birthday on Earth Day is definitely shaping me as a person. I always want to make it a goal to honor and protect our environment.

Christina is an exceptional young lady who was awarded an artist of the community for fire prevention week. She was in the district finals for Track and was nominated to run in her school hexathalon for exceptional athletes.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Cigarettes: When did it become ‘OK’ to Litter?

By Kevin Hurley

The next time you are walking down the streets of NYC, take a moment to look around on the ground and actually count the number of cigarette butts that litter our city.  I performed this very activity this morning while walking down Broadway from the subway to the office building where I work.  On one side of one city block I counted 57 cigarette butts.  During my walk down this same city block I witnessed two individuals discard their half finished cigarettes onto the city streets.  Not surprisingly, no one seemed shocked or said anything regarding their actions, myself included.  So, when did it become ‘OK’ to litter?  Why does everyone get a “pass” when it comes to littering cigarettes?

(EPA Photo/Kevin Hurley)

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in America.  Most cigarette filters contain some sort of plastic, which can endure in the environment for long periods of time.  Nationally, cigarette butts account for one-quarter or more of the items that are tossed onto our streets and roadways.  According to the 2011 Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup, cigarette butts represented 32% of all debris counted.  Cigarette butts, traveling mainly through storm water systems, often end up in local streams, rivers and waterways.  Unfortunately, residents, businesses and local governments are usually stuck with the bill when it comes to cleaning up this litter.

Not being a smoker, I do not really understand the issues that smokers face when it comes to the decision of where and how to discard of cigarettes.  Is it a lack of ash receptacles, a lack of awareness of the environmental impacts, a lack of caring, a lack of motivation or some other rationale?  An individual’s decision to throw their trash on the ground, however you look at it, is still littering.

So I’ll ask my question again, when did it become ‘OK’ to litter?

About the author:  Kevin has been working as a Grants Management Specialist with the EPA since 2007, and is currently on detail serving as special assistant to the Regional Administrator.  He grew up in South Jersey, went to school outside of Baltimore, and received a Masters in Public Policy from Rutgers University.  Kevin currently resides in the Upper East Side of Manhattan where you can usually find him exercising or playing outdoor ice hockey in Central Park.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Butt Stops Here

I had no idea where our eighth grade study of water science would lead me this past fall: picking up cigarette butts out of street gutters, creating anti-litter advertising, and talking to the Raleigh City Council about how cigarettes are the biggest–and most hidden–form of litter in our city and state.

We learned about water properties through class discussions, guest speakers, and amazing field trips like canoeing our local Neuse River and stream testing nearby tributaries. Our quarterly project consisted of participating in the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation’s Environmental Challenge.  In teams of 8, we formed action plan projects to solve water issues.

We talked to experts, including representatives from NC Big Sweep and Keep NC Beautiful. We learned that cigarette butts are the number one form of litter in our community.  Our environmental goal: We want cigarette smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts properly, which will result in cleaner waterways and streets.

To meet our goal, we created a grassroots campaign that would positively affect the community and get its support in the process. Our campaign reached an estimated 35,000 people on a budget of under $1000. We received free City of Raleigh advertising space, assistance from its public affairs staff, and design assistance from a local sign shop. The shop helped us create placards for every city bus and a grant from Keep NC Beautiful helped pay for them.  We also produced, filmed, and edited three free PSA commercials with the Raleigh Television Network.  We talked to City Council about adding cigarette ash receptacles on more streets in downtown Raleigh. According to Keep America Beautiful, for every ash receptacle added, the littering rate decreases by nine percent, so we know this will have a lasting impact on the community. We specifically want to add ash receptacles to bus stops, city parks, and other meeting areas around the city.

I never paid much attention to cigarette litter before the project.  I didn’t always notice it.  My shock of realization came after conducting the first survey near Raleigh’s main bus station. We found over 2500 littered cigarette butts in one day!  Cleaning them up made me realize that even small types of litter really affect the way I view a community. One project realization is the willingness of residents to make changes in communities. Our campaign was a success because of people who cared about our city.

Annie is an eighth grader at Exploris Middle School. She enjoys reading and playing the alto saxophone in the Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble.

Exploris Middle School, is a charter school in downtown Raleigh, NC that uses integrated project-based learning and service-learning to carry out its mission to help students learn to build a “connected, just, and sustainable world.”

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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One Girl’s Earth Saving Mission

student

My name is Brooklyn. I’m your typical 4th grader and superhero.

My favorite subjects are science, math and reading.   After school, I participate in soccer, basketball and playing the drums.  There is one thing I’m most passionate about and it’s the 3 R’s – reuse, reduce and recycle. I remember them from my 2nd grade environmental club, and mostly because I notice so much litter on the ground instead of in the trash or in recycle bins. Then I read up on litter facts.  I was upset to find that it cost billions a year to clean up so I decided to do something about it. That money could be used to provide food for the needy or to help cure cancer instead.

When interviewing Atlanta’s police chief about litter violations, I was surprised to learn that a person can be fined $1000 for it. I had fun interviewing him because I felt I was just like Ms. Oprah.  Maybe someday I’ll interview the President and talk to him about educating everyone about the environment.  I also wrote a book with a superhero that was on a mission to rid the earth of trash and pollution.

I’d like to think of myself as a superhero, strengthening my powers by teaching other kids on the importance of being green. Student by day, Earth Saver Girl by night!  It’s not easy being a superhero though, especially for the environment.  There are other issues affecting our environment besides littering – pollution and endangered animals to name a few. It just never ends, I’m going to need a league of superheroes to help.

In the meantime, since kids across the country email me about how they can be involved my mom and I decided to start a nonprofit organization. Through an awareness program at local schools that includes environmental games and projects, we’re focused on teaching kids about preserving the Earth’s natural resources and how to improve the carbon footprint in their communities. Everyone counts when it comes to making our environment better and healthier. I am very proud to teach other kids about the Earth and that many of them are joining my mission. They’re developing their superhero skills too.  Soon, we’ll make a league of environmental superheroes.

My name is Brooklyn. I am 9 years old and live in Metro Atlanta. I am the author of The Adventures of Earth Saver Girl, Don’t be a Litterbug.  I am working on another book which will teach the importance of picking up your animal’s poop.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Truth from the Mouths of Babes

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

The other day I was running some errands with my 7 year old daughter. As we approached the car, she noticed some litter scattered around and said spontaneously “Littering is bad because it’s mean to the Earth. We should protect it.” I was speechless. I was impressed with her insight, but at the same time sad that we are being “mean” to Planet Earth with the senseless things we often do-like generating so much trash in the first place.

While in my family, we try our best to live by the three R’s —reduce, reuse and recycle—I must confess that the hardest R seems to be reducing waste from the outset of any activity. In our daily lives, there are so many things that generate waste like excessive packaging, fast food wrappings, disposable products, to name a few. With some planning, we can reduce the trash even before it’s created.

Here are some suggestions:

There are numerous possibilities if we put our mind to it. These are just some consumer tips that can be easily used at home for waste prevention. I also highly recommend my colleague’s blog with an extensive list of habit-changing tips.

If our children can take care of Mother Earth at an early age, why can’t we?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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La verdad a través de los ojos de los niños

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

El otro día estaba haciendo varias diligencias con mi hija de siete años. Cuando nos acercamos al auto, ella notó que había basura regada en el suelo y dijo espontáneamente <<el echar basura es malo para el Planeta Tierra. Debemos protegerlo>>. Me dejó atónita. Me impresionó su sensibilidad, pero a la misma vez me entristeció por lo “malos” que estamos siendo con nuestro Planeta Tierra debido a las cosas que hacemos frecuentemente sin pensar—como la generación desmedida de tanta basura.

Aunque yo y mi familia tratamos de vivir bajo los principios de las tres R’s —reducción, reutilización y reciclaje—confieso que la “R” más difícil de implementar es el de reducir la basura antes de emprender una actividad. En nuestras vidas cotidianas, hay tantas cosas que generan desechos como el embalaje excesivo, las envolturas de comida rápida, los productos desechables, por ejemplo. Si planificamos con antelación, podríamos reducir la basura aún antes de crearla.

He aquí algunas sugerencias:

Hay numerosas posibilidades si se lo propone. Incluyo también algunos consejos para el consumidor que son fáciles de seguir en el hogar para la prevención de basura. También les invito que consulten el blog de mi amiga Brenda que delinea una extensa lista de consejos para cambiar los hábitos a favor de la protección ambiental.

Si los niños se preocupan por nuestro planeta a temprana edad, ¿Por qué no lo hacemos nosotros también?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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