Superstorm Sandy Highlights Need to Address Watershed Litter Problem: Solutions to be Discussed at 7th Annual Trash Summit

November 6, 2012

Superstorm Sandy Highlights Need to Address Watershed Litter Problem: Solutions to be Discussed at 7th Annual Trash Summit

(Silver Spring, MD) The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy serves as a poignant reminder of the pervasive problem of trash and litter throughout the Potomac River watershed and the need to seek solutions to a problem that impacts the quality of our water, the land that surrounds it, and poses a serious threat to our health and regional economy. Elected officials, government agencies, NGOs, businesses, and concerned citizens will gather at the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (AFF) 7th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit on November 7th to discuss regional policies and efforts to mitigate litter and waste in the Potomac Watershed. Through presentations, discussions, and plenary sessions, participants of this day-long working summit identify action steps for the following year that will contribute to a reduction in litter.

This year, the event could not be more timely; Superstorm Sandy left a wake of destruction along the east coast. As floodwaters subside along the Potomac and its tributaries, the litter that was not washed downstream was left along our shorelines to be observed by local residents. Litter from yards, streets, and parks gets washed into storm drains, which flow, unfiltered, into our waterways when it rains. While the Superstorm did not create litter, it rapidly emptied storm drains and simply made the trash that is always present more visible across the region. With the region’s litter consciousness raised, the stage has been set for productive discussion at the Trash Summit.

Acknowledging the impact regional efforts have on the global scale, world-renowned ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau will deliver the Summit’s Keynote address. “Like many environmental challenges, litter starts as a local problem,” said Cousteau, Founder and President of Ocean Futures Society. “But when left unchecked, the cumulative effects can have a huge impact globally as I have witnessed on many occasions around the world. Even the most remote places, like the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, are scarred by trash we have disposed of carelessly.”

In addition to keynote speaker Jean-Michel Cousteau, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will speak during the lunchtime plenary about litter legislation that has been successfully passed in Montgomery County, including the reusable bag incentive bill. “Addressing litter at its source and devising appropriate trash reduction strategies are critically important,” Leggett noted. “Montgomery County has embraced innovation and our leadership role as the first in Maryland to try and achieve ambitious goals for reducing waste and improving water quality.” Ten other elected officials from the state, county and city level will be contributing to the dialogue throughout the day, recognizing that the problem can only be solved through bipartisan consensus.

Topics for discussion and action during the Trash Summit include: Compost, Monitoring, Policy Issues, Creative Engagement, Elevating the 4 Rs, and Public Education. During the morning plenary session, AFF will unveil its new Trash Free Potomac Network, an online community created to connect volunteers, organizations, businesses and governments together to address the trash problem in the region throughout the year. “Our goal is to create a one-stop shop for people interested in tackling the trash problem year round,” said AFF Executive Director Lori Arguelles. “The good news is the problem is solvable and now we have a new tool that will make collaborating around cleanups even easier.”

Four individuals and organizations that have made exceptional efforts in working to eradicate litter in the watershed will be honored with AFF’s Potomac Champion Award during the Summit. Recipients of this year’s award are Clint Hogbin, of Berkley County, WV for his integral part in improving West Virginia’s solid waste collection, transportation, processing, and recycling: Elizabeth Martin of Mount Vernon, VA, for her work with litter prevention in her community; REI for helping to build a movement of engaged stewards; and Forest Heights Elementary School, of Prince George’s County, MD for their work as a Trash Free School.

Remarks during the closing plenary of the Summit will examine each session and look towards the next steps that are needed to achieve a trash free Potomac.

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