With the grasses dying back and the leaves falling off of the trees, one has only to drive the roads of Queen Anne’s County to realize how far we need to go to remove the trash that cheapens our roads and flows into our streams and rivers. During the Conservancy’s annual stream clean up this past September, close to 50 volunteers collected over 70 bags of trash. Plastic bags and bottles made up the overwhelming majority of what was collected. Also found were such things as tires, steel fence posts, and glass bottles. The trash we cannot see also has a negative effect. Trawls in the Bay have revealed a high level of microplastics trapped in vegetation and floating in the water column. These particles are harmful to aquatic life, not to mention to the birds and people who eat them. Plastic bags hang from tree branches where they have been swept by the wind. And those water bottles and straws? Forget about it. One use and they will last in the landfill for ever, or certainly past our children’s lifetimes.
Governments have started to take some action by putting recycling programs in place, in part forced by the fact that they are running out of landfill. But recycling is also getting more expensive. Recent efforts have focused on the front end of the trash stream–particularly for plastics–by avoiding trash creation itself. Banning plastic bags, for example, has taken hold in many Maryland cities and counties. A ban on large scale balloon releases was recently passed by the Queen Anne’s Commissioners-the first of its kind in Maryland (See https://www.qac.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1437). Businesses have also begun to realize that they can save money by asking patrons if they want a bag or a straw when shopping or eating out.
Individuals are also part of the solution. Consider your habits.
What can you do?
- Take your own bags to the store.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Don’t take straws unless you use them.
- Avoid Styrofoam and heavy plastic packaged items.
- Carry and use a refillable water bottle.
- Lead by example.