Long Island Sound, our regions greatest treasure, is affected by many types of pollution. The thoughtless, but all too common act of missing or failing to dispose of trash in the proper receptacle has a major effect on the health of Long Island Sound. The fact is Americans create a lot of garbage. To be exact, 340 million tons of municipal solid waste is generated each year (a large portion of which winds up on the ground ). This is an increase of 13 million tons from last year and a 36% increase over what was reported ten years ago. A whopping 48% of Americans admit to having purposefully littered at one time or another in the past ten years. How does that cigarette tossed out of a car window, or that coffee cup that missed the trash really affect Long Island Sound?
After litter hits the ground, there are many ways that it can reach the Sound. It can be blown in directly by wind, it can go down the storm drain and be emptied into Long Island Sound or it can enter any tributary in the watershed and drift down to the Sound. While all forms of litter can be extremely dangerous to aquatic life, the most common form of litter affecting the Sound is floatable debris. These are objects that are found floating on the surface of the water or washed up onto shore. While most people think that marine life can avoid litter, in actuality they cannot. Floatable debris causes problems for Long Island Sound its inhabitants in two ways: ingestion and entanglement. Floating litter often becomes mistaken for food and is ingested by birds, sea turtles and other marine life. When ingested, litter can cause suffocation, starvation or poisoning.
Cigarette butts, the single most littered item in America, is composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that can persist in the environment for 10-12 years! An estimated 4.5 trillion non-biodegradable cigarette butts are littered worldwide.
The next most significant offender is floatable litter that contains polystyrene. When ingested by animals who mistake it for food, polystyrene can poison and/or clog stomachs leading to death by either toxicity or starvation. Once released into the environment, polystyrene will NEVER decompose to a non-recognizable form.
Entanglement occurs when animal becomes inextricably wrapped in or ensnared up by something. In many cases litter can entangle an animal swimming by. If the animal is unable to extricate itself, it can suffocate or drown.
Six packs rings are estimated to cause 6 million sea bird deaths a year and over 100,000 marine mammal deaths. The plastic used to create the rings takes 450 years to decompose!
Plastic shopping bags, which can result in both suffocation and drowning, take between 10-20 years to decompose
Not only is litter unsightly to the beaches and shores of the Sound and dangerous to aquatic life, it can create economic consequences. Long Island Sound contributes $6 billion per year to the bi-state region: $800 million in commercial fishing, $1 billion in recreational fishing, $3.3 billion in boating, $750 million in swimming/visiting the beach, and $150 million intrinsic value. These figures do not include real estate values, the importance of the Sound as a water highway for commercial boat traffic, or the sixteen seaports. Even with these figures the value that the culture and history of this costal region has, can never be evaluated- it is truly priceless
Step1: Simple Actions:
Set an example by not littering.
Dispose of trash properly. Recycle any materials that can be recycled and dispose of the rest in a garbage can.
Do not dump anything down the storm drain.
Keep a litterbag in your car.
Avoid excess packaging when you shop. This will decrease litter from the start.
Purchase reusable canvas bags for your groceries and errands. Keep these items in your car so that they are handy whenever you might need them.
Do not accept plastic bags with items you purchase if you can carry your purchase with out them.
Keep your yard clean and free of things that can blow into the street and become litter.
Keep your driveway and street clear of grass clippings and leaves.
When you visit a park or beach, remember to take out what you bring in. Keep trash and recyclables in a bag or backpack until you can put them in a litter basket.
Talk to your family and friends about recycling to reduce the amount of material you throw away, this will also result in a reduction of litter generally.
At home, make sure garbage and recycling bags are tied securely so that loose papers and other items cannot fall out and become litter.
Make sure you close the lid on your refuse containers after depositing your trash or recycling inside. This will prevent refuse from spilling into the street.
Do not overfill refuse containers; exposed garbage will likely result in litter.
Remove flyers or take-out menus promptly from your front door or windshield before they are blown away and become litter.
Step 2: More Involvement:
Participate in and promote recycling programs. If there is not a curbside recycling program in your neighborhood, contact your city officials.
Contact your city if there are not trash bins at your local parks, beaches or public areas.
Stop litter at the source. Reduce your junk mail by writing to:
Contact Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 9008 Farmingdale, NY 11736-9008