Pick it up please — even if…!

By Nancy Grundahl

Is it my imagination or is there more trash hanging around outside these days than there was years ago? I was brought up to pick up any trash I happened upon, even if it wasn’t mine. The theory was that if everyone did, our community would always look wonderful — the “Keep America Beautiful” approach.

2009 Anacostia Watershed Society's River Trash Cleanup Event!

2009 Anacostia Watershed Society

I still try to pick up any litter I see, but often it seems like I’m the only one. I am amazed at how many people at my train station will walk by an advertisement that has fallen out of someone else’s newspaper, a soda can left on a bench, or those plastic straps used to bundle newspapers. And, it would only take a few seconds of their time. Gosh, there are trash cans right there!

Maybe they don’t understand where that trash can end up. It might be swept away to a nearby stream, affecting the quality of the water. That’s what has been happening in the Anacostia River watershed, part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, 85% of which resides within Maryland and 15% within the District of Columbia.

Because of all the trash that’s been going into the Anacostia River it was designated as “impaired by trash” in early 2007, only the second river in the United States to receive this dubious recognition. An estimated 600 tons of trash and debris enter the river each year. There are trash cleanup days which really help, but wouldn’t it be better if everyone just took the few seconds every day to pick up the trash they see?

Is litter a problem in your community? What have you tried that has worked and what hasn’t? Please share your experiences.

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 likes to garden and during the growing season brings flowers into the office. Nancy also writes for the EPA “It’s Our Environment” blog.

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