Posts Tagged ‘litter prevention’

The Maryland Push to Ban Styrofoam

February 2nd, 2017
by Laura Cattell Noll, Assistant Program Manager

In the last decade, communities throughout the Potomac River Watershed have taken substantive action to prevent litter, clean up communities and protect the water we drink.  Local jurisdictions in the Washington DC region have been national leaders in disposable bag laws, polystyrene foam bans and innovative social marketing campaigns.

The Maryland General Assembly is looking at the successes of these local jurisdictions and considering a state-wide ban on polystyrene. Commonly known as Styrofoam, polystyrene use poses risks to human health and threatens our drinking water.

Volunteer in yellow jacket carries beach-ball sized chunk of styrofoam away from the river.

A volunteer carries a large block of Styrofoam found on the shore of the Potomac River during a cleanup.

When hot food or beverages are placed in polystyrene food containers, they can leach toxic chemicals directly into our food. Scientists have found that most Americans have residues of these chemicals in their bodies. Because it is lightweight and floats, discarded polystyrene containers are often carried by runoff to storm drains and eventually  end up in local waterways. Over time, the polystyrene breaks into small pieces, but never decomposes. These small pieces absorb chemicals from the water and are readily ingested by fish.

For the last 29 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has organized the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup in collaboration with hundreds of partners throughout the region. Since its inception, more that 150,000 volunteers have removed more than 7 million pounds of trash. Our volunteers have consistently found that polystyrene food containers represent a significant portion of the trash in our communities and waterways.

Together we can make polystyrene a thing of the past! What will you do to help?

  • Call your legislator and tell them you support Senate Bill 186 and House Bill 229.
  • Pledge to go foam free by bringing your own reusable coffee mug.
  • Sign-up to volunteer for clean land, safe water and healthy communities.

 

 

2016 in Review: What’s going on in the Trash World?

January 24th, 2017
by Julia Saintz, Community Outreach Coordinator

 

At the beginning of a new year, we pause to reflect on recent successes of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative.  This past year was filled with proud moments for environmental educators, litter fanatics, and volunteers in action.

Keeping the conversation going

A little over a decade ago, we launched a multi-jurisdictional, region-wide conversation about the issue of trash with the first ever Trash Summit. As a result, more than 100 officials signed a treaty pledging their commitment to the issue.  Spring 2016 saw the 10th annual trash summit, Transforming Communities, which convened nearly 200 community members and representatives to talk about the issue of trash in the region’s waterways and what can be done about it. In the fall, just a little over a decade after the first Trash Treaty was signed, officials from the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County came together to renew their commitment with the Anacostia River Accord. 

Officials at table shake hands after signing the Anacostia Accord.

 

Inspired by our volunteers

Each April, we celebrate Earth Month with an enormous region-wide cleanup effort. In 2016, our team helped organize more than 9,400 volunteers for the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup who removed more than 330,000 pounds of trash at 265 sites! Volunteers from across four states and the District of Columbia came out to clean up their neighborhoods, roads, parks, and waterways. Even after three decades of organizing this event, the passion and community commitment to our environment and waterways continues to inspire.

Group of kids in bright yellow vests roll a discarded tire out of the woods and towards a road.

 

Youth and leadership

This summer, we also launched the Watershed Leadership Program, which teaches young people about the watershed, the importance of proper waste management and how to lead a successful watershed cleanup. The program engaged youth from the Student Conservation Association and the Green Zone Environmental Program of the Department of Energy and the Environment in the District of Columbia. This program joins initiatives like Trash Free Schools and Trash Free Classrooms in working to engage the next generation and give them the tools to make a green difference in their community.

Three children sit on playground fence holding bright yellow trash bags.

 

Keep an eye out for more in 2017:

  • In 2016, we continued to refine our litter prevention campaign with brand new social marketing research to help us better reach millennials and Spanish-speakers. What did we find? Messaging focused on healthy communities and drinking water was most effective with those groups. Based on these results, our campaign has been updated and will be unveiled soon!
  • The Alice Ferguson Foundation is excited to partner with Rock Creek Conservancy for a three-year project to create a D.C. Adopt a Stream Program.
  • If you live in DC, you’ll be seeing more of us. This year, our Litter Prevention team will be working in all 8 wards of DC!
  • Keep an eye out for our 11th Annual Trash Summit, coming this autumn.
  • As of January 1, 2017, the District of Columbia joins Prince George’s County in implementing a Foam Ban, requiring food service packaging to be made from recyclable or compostable materials only. This is great news; Styrofoam is one of the most toxic and least degradable plastics out there. Be ready to support upcoming legislation on Foam Bans in other jurisdictions! 

 

Ready to dive into 2017 with us? Sign up for our mailing list to stay on top upcoming events, cleanups, and happenings.

 

 

What Motivates You to Keep Your Neighborhood Trash Free?

June 30th, 2014

By Albert Arevalo, Community Outreach Liaison

Despite where we live in the District, litter is something that we find scattered in all corners of the city. The goal of the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign  is to educate the community and to change attitudes and behavior around the bad habit of littering. I spend my days in this District of Columbia talking to people about litter and getting them involved with the Litter Campaign. Meeting community members who invest time daily to pick up trash provides a strong motivation for me to keep fighting for a trash free watershed. Kitty Dawson was the first community member  I met who had a strong personal commitment to keeping her neighborhood trash free and can be found on most days picking up trash in Ward 5. I’ve asked Kitty to share what motivates her:

Looking out my living room window every morning gives me joy to see the lovely trees and birds.  However, the trash disturbs me and it makes my smile disappear.  I tell myself not to look at the trash so it won’t bother me, but that doesn’t work. I look around and wonder, ‘where is all the trash coming from, I just cleaned the street several hours ago?’

IMG_35881

I care about the grass and I care about how my neighborhood looks, and I feel good picking up trash in my neighborhood.  Honestly I say to myself it is not worth it because although there are trash bags around for people to dump their trash the trash still end up on the street or below the trash bag.  But I continue because I care about my community so I will continue to pick up the trash in front of my building.  Hopefully one day there will be more individuals who care about their neighborhood and love to keep it free from trash.

One day while picking up trash and a young man came over to me and asked if he can give me free bags he introduced himself and told me he was part of a non profit organization and shared what the organization offer.  Like free trash bags and gloves or whatever you may need to keep your neighborhood trash free.  It was a pleasure meeting Albert Arevalo just knowing there are others for the cause brings me joy.

As our campaign grows and gains momentum, we wish to ease the load of those other “Kitty Dawson’s” who take great pride in their community. I encourage you to make your own personal commitment to end litter. Some simple actions you can take include:

Just as piece by piece, litter adds up and makes the places we go every day unsafe and unhealthy, so too can we build a healthy, trash-free Potomac Watershed with each individual action. Only by working together will we see a change, and only by working together can we make a difference.

The Road to Trash Fanatacism

April 10th, 2014

Guest Blog Post by Ned Foster, Friends of Little Rocky Run

Long before tackling trash in Fairfax County, my real conservation efforts started about 20 years ago when I cleaned up a cave. I visited this cave frequently, but it had gotten so trashy that I didn’t enjoy going in there anymore. So I scoured it clean. Around 15 years ago the same realization came to me here in Fairfax County. I no longer enjoyed hiking in the local woods because of the trash found there. So I started hauling junk out. My cleaning efforts expanded, and I eventually founded a small group named the Friends of Little Rocky Run.

Later I became acquainted with The Alice Ferguson Foundation. Thank goodness for them! Their presence is huge, and their annual Clean Up brings in volunteers galore. So now I save my biggest projects for their event and have been since 2007.

Here’s a brief summary of what the Friends of Little Rocky Run have accomplished each year in the Alice Ferguson Cleanups:

2007 – 38 bags of trash, 3 tires, and a five gallon container of motor oil. Estimated weight: 500 lbs.

2008 – 97 bags of trash , 6 tires, 1 rear axle, 1 car battery, 1 wheelbarrow, 1 metal bed frame, and 7 – 4’X3” steel fence posts. Weight: 3,900 lbs.

2009 – 98 bags of trash, car and truck parts, 15 tires. Weight: 2,388 lbs.

2010 – 81 bags of trash, 49 tires, 2 pickup truck loads of miscellaneous metal , 2 lawn mowers , 1 dog igloo , 2 children’s wading pools , 60′ 3/4″ rebar , 50′ phone cable , 3  inflatable rafts , 1 metal feeding trough, 1  refrigerator, and 1  washing machine. Weight: 5,380 lbs.

2011 – 86 bags of trash, 11 tires, 2 wooden pallets, 20′ of rebar, a wheelbarrow, and 300 lbs. of miscellaneous wood and metal. Estimated weight: 1,000 lbs.

2012 – 57 bags of trash, 13 tires, a set of barbells, and several hundred feet of phone cable. Weight: 1,535 lbs.

2013 – 47 bags of trash, a bicycle, one tire, and a VDOT orange barrel. Weight: 700 lbs.

2014 – 103 bags of trash, one pickup truck load of metal recycle, 49 tires, and various wood scraps. Weight 6,040 pounds.

CvilleHistoricParkTires2014This is a grand total of 607 bags of trash. Weight total is around 21,443 lbs or 10.72 tons.

Since my watershed is one of the smaller ones, my totals don’t come close to some others I have seen. On the other hand, I take pride in the fact that we always do turnkey cleanups; that is, we haul our trash and dumped items away ourselves and don’t leave it behind for someone else to pick it up.

It is not likely that the above grand total would be anywhere near what it is without the support of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Bless their hearts for what they do.

 

If you are interested in submitting a guest blog post about your cleanup efforts, email [email protected]

Evidence of Changing Behaviors with the Litter Campaign

April 9th, 2014

By Clara Elias, Program Manager, Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Litter is in our communities, parks, and waterways in large part because someone chooses to drop their trash on the ground instead of finding a trash can. Yes, some litter is there because people accidentally drop things, or because people forget to make sure the lids of their trash and recycling bins are covered, but by-in-large litter is a problem because of personal choices in how we dispose of trash. So it is not surprising that when people sit down to think about solutions for cleaning up our communities and waterways the discussion ultimately ends up talking about public education. But how effective is public education and how do we measure its impact?

Last year the Trash Initiative set out to answer this question by piloting a new method of measuring behavior change, by measuring the effectiveness of our Regional Litter Prevention Campaign. We launched the Litter Campaign in 2011 after several years of research and development, which included an in-depth study to understand how people feel about litter and what motivates them to do it (read the study here).  It has been used both by governments and by communities to educate and inspire people to change behavior and its reach is ever growing. In the last year we had many community groups, businesses, governments, and citizens join our efforts to spread our message.

Litter_Campaign_PilotEvaluation_4-1-14-1We are pretty confident that the Litter Campaign works, but we wanted more proof beyond anecdotal evidence, so we decided to directly observe pedestrians at four sites in Prince George’s County over the course of a year. During our study, we made notes on the behavior of nearly 5,000 pedestrians while we watched discretely from a parked car. The information we gathered showed a 45% reduction in the number of people littering in places where the Litter Campaign was used. What’s even more interesting is that 75% more people were putting their trash in trash cans! While these preliminary results need to be flushed out more fully, it certainly suggests a positive change in those communities away from littering and towards responsible waste disposal.

We will continue to collect information about the Litter Campaign to see if the trends hold true in other places and from year to year. You can read more about our study here [link to my summary] and if you are interested in using our Litter Campaign Materials, they are free to use and available online at TrashFreePotomac.org. While we will continue to spread the Litter Campaign throughout the region, we could also use your help. Please consider using our tools in your community and leave a note in the comments below about what kinds of outreach tools would be most useful for you.

Litter Takes No Holidays

January 22nd, 2014

By Albert Arevalo, Community Outreach Liaison

Litter In StreetBefore we rang in the New Year, I made my last 2013 visit to one of the communities I will be working in, Hechinger Mall. As the Community Outreach Liaison for the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, my mission is to learn how the level of litter is impacting the residents, and how our Litter Prevention Campaign can help restore the quality of life in the communities in the District of Colombia.

As I drove through the Hechinger Mall community, I noticed that the holiday season had an effect on trash collection. litterinstreet2Trash services had been altered, so bins, streets, and parks were over flowing with litter. Surprisingly it wasn’t the litter that caught my eye, but the random trash bags nailed on trees that peaked my interest. After some investigating I realized to my surprise that these bags were in several streets in NE DC.

These bags were hung by Ms. Dawson, a resident of the Carver Langston community who is taking the initiative to help combat the prevalent litter plaguing her community. I was fortunate enough to meet Ms. Dawson as I investigated the source of the hanging bags, and she explained how she arms herself with a small grocery bag and bright yellow dishwashing gloves weekly and takes to the streets to pick up as much trash as she can fit in her bag. As I admired her perseverance, we discussed the work AFF is wishing to accomplish in her community and she was ecstatic to hear about our Litter Prevention Campaign.

To further her efforts in cleaning up the community, I gave Ms. Dawson the Holiday Trash Kit, which included: litter prevention posters, stickers, a reusable tote bag, recycling and trash bags, and a new pair of gloves. Along with the kit, we have both gained a new partner in each other because right then and there we decided to combine forces, and change littering behavior in her community.

I have high hopes for 2014, and I look forward to meeting other community members who, like Ms. Dawson, are fighting the good fight and are ready to eliminate trash in their community.

Enter Video Contest for a Chance to Win $1,000

May 2nd, 2013

By Lina Scott, Communications Intern

Are You Ready to Be the Next Watershed Celebrity?

We can’t wait to see the submissions for our contest, but we also know it can be hard to plan a video. If you’re still looking for ideas, you may find it helpful to check out some PSAs from the past that have dealt with litter prevention.

PSAs, or public service announcements, have been used widely throughout the past century in both print and video format. They were heavily used during World War I and II to promote support for the war effort. Since then, they have been used to promote all kinds of messages that are considered beneficial for the public. They have played a key role in the modern environmental movement, especially in the many anti-litter campaigns.

Please enjoy this selection of PSAs from the past 50 years. They demonstrate the huge variety of styles and techniques that you can use in your own video, and they also give us a fun glimpse into different eras. How will your video represent 2013, and how do you think the messaging will change in the future?

Donald Duck’s “The Litterbug” – 1961
This short film isn’t a PSA, but I like it and think it’s worth seeing. It has lovely old animation and a very catchy tune, and ends with the singing animals typical of Disney. I like the framing of the Litterbug as a pest, though the producers’ opinion of DDT and other chemical pesticides is rather dated!

Susan Spotless – 1960s
This is a cute video that looks at litter from a very specific social perspective – that of the idealized mid-century American family. Preventing litter is about national pride and about maintaining the countryside for families’ recreational use, ideas that still resonate today, though within a different social context.

Crying Indian – 1971
This is one of the most famous litter prevention PSAs, and it was launched in 1971 on the second Earth Day. The dramatic music and the visual of the canoe moving through a pollution-coated city had a large impact in the 70s.

Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute – 1980s
This one seems a little strange to me, but that might be due to the use of a big owl costume, when today we would normally see special effects or animation. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder that there are ways to make a fun video while on a limited budget.

Don’t Mess with Texas – 2000s
The Don’t Mess with Texas campaign has been running since 1985, and has produced a number of PSAs. This one from 2000 features Texan star Matthew McConaughey. It received limited air time due to “violence” but I think it’s fun to see an environmental campaign incorporating some modern Hollywood flair.

More recently produced, this PSA’s use of a Texas Confederate Air Force bomber takes an even more aggressive stance against litter. It definitely succeeds in getting your attention!

Storm Water Sam – 2012
Lastly, here is our very own video about littering. An animated PSA, it shows that you can make a meaningful video without finding any actors.

Are you ready to get started? Hopefully these videos have given you some ideas, and shown how much variety there can be even when sharing the same kind of message.

Good luck!