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Trashing Trash Traffic
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera

 

Seagrove Park. Photo Shirley King. 
Click to enlarge.

 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch will continue to amass its diet of plastic junk now that AB 521 was killed on May 24th by the California State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee – legislation that would have required manufacturers of marine plastic pollution to figure out how to reduce 95 percent of plastic pollution along the state’s coastline by 2025 - reducing it by a combination of innovative product redesign, recovery, collection or recycling. Perennially on the front lines, local coastal communities combat and clean up this plastic trash, much of which otherwise ends up as marine debris – and until extended producer responsibility laws are adopted here as exist in France, the responsibility for the plastic products especially those taken to such sensitive areas as beaches and surrounding parks are in the consumers’ hands – or should never leave their hands.

Our tiny City of Del Mar spends $295,621 annually just for beach and waterway cleanup, making it among the cities studied by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) one of the highest per resident costs per year. We Del Mar residents each pay $78 compared to the average of $14 within Del Mar’s size group and $13 for all cities in the report: ‘The Cost to West Coast Communities of Dealing with Trash, Reducing Marine Debris’ commissioned by the EPA in September 2012. It studied U.S. West Coast communities located in watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean for the cost of the combination of street sweeping, installation of storm water capture devices, storm drain cleaning and maintenance, manual cleanup of litter and public anti-littering campaigns. Our public obligation is unremitting and grows ever more serious.

Most local governments have promoted land-based clean-up and source reduction by enacting ordinances to reduce single-use plastic bags and polystyrene takeout packaging; however, 80 percent of the debris items collected on beaches and parks consist of cigarettes, caps/lids; plastic beverage bottles; plastic bags; food wrappers/containers, cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons, glass beverage bottles, straws, stirrers, and beverage cans, - items leaving our hands and entering the mouths of our marine life throughout the food chain. And it is perplexing with all of the trashcans peppering our Del Mar beaches and parks, why aren’t these items captured?

Many communities have learned that trash cans were not enough to keep refuse from finding its way out of the overflowing receptacles via wind gusts, crafty animals or birds, or sloppy humans who leave bags of trash along the side of the receptacles. “Carry-in, Carry-out” garbage disposal initiatives from the 1990’s are rapidly taking firm root in public parks and beaches across the country. Trash receptacles are replaced with personal accountability and the innate respect for the environment – whatever is brought to the parks returns home to be recycled. Local governments implementing “Carry-in, Carry-out” Programs are saving resources and changing public behavior.

Will our City finally include our park and beach-goers in the solution to reduce marine debris? Will they evaluate how a “Carry-in, Carry-out” program can encourage our park users to be eco-friendly? Will they consider how our staff resources can be shifted from trash collection to more valuable maintenance and beautification work? Can we eliminate the unsightly trash receptacles that not only detract from the beauty of our coastal natural environment but also ironically attract more trash? In the interim we can all act independently to protect marine life by committing to reducing the disposable items we take to the parks and take every scrap home. If you have had an experience with a “Carry-in, Carry-out” trash program, please send us a letter to publish.

 

 

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