How Is Litter Still a Thing? You Can Help Bridging The Gap Prevent Litter and Get It Out of Area Creeks and Rivers!
Still in the midst of a winter that’s been colder and icier in metro-Kansas City than it’s been in several years, it may seem like spring will never come. Looking at the calendar, though, we can see it’s almost upon us, and at Bridging The Gap that means it’s time for litter clean-ups!
Most Americans don’t seem to think much about litter. This is partly due to the fact that we live in a car culture, which means we literally don’t see most of the litter that’s out there the way we would if we got around by walking, or even biking.
And litter doesn’t keep piling up in ever-greater amounts, so surely our city governments are doing an effective job of keeping up with whatever litter does end up on the ground, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most cities simply do not have the resources to do very much litter collection on top of dealing with illegal dumping. Given that reality, why doesn’t litter keep collecting to the point where it’s an obvious problem?
The unpleasant truth is that our storm sewers have become our de facto litter disposal system. When it rains or snow melts, litter is carried along by the water into the storm sewers on city streets and in parking lots.
Once in the storm sewers, there are no filters in place to collect litter so it can be properly disposed of in a landfill. Instead, stormwater dumps directly into area creeks and rivers, carrying litter along with it.
If you walk any of the trails along our urban waterways we bet you will quickly be appalled at how much litter is strewn in them and along their banks in areas that haven’t been channelized with stone or concrete beds. Indian Creek and the Blue River out south, Brush, Turkey, and Town Fork Creeks in the heart of the city and Line and Buckeye Creeks north of the river are some prominent examples.
There’s only one genuine solution to our problem with litter, of course: To persuade people who litter intentionally to stop, and to make sure all of us are disposing of our waste properly so it doesn’t end up as litter unintentionally.
The first, of course, is quite difficult because it’s hard to identify who is actually littering in order to reach them with a persuasive educational campaign.
The second, however, should be pretty easy precisely because the litter is unintentional, and the solutions are simple. For example:
- Always bag your trash securely.
- Do not set open-top recycling and/or trash bins out on windy days.
- Close commercial trash and recycling container lids after placing your materials inside so they can’t blow out.
- Avoid carrying loose materials in open truck beds where they can blow out.
While we work on litter prevention for the future, we also need to work on removing litter that’s already out there in our creeks and rivers. That’s why Bridging The Gap is working with our partners at KC Water Services (KCMO’s water department), the Mid-America Regional Council, and EPA Region 7 to organize litter clean-ups in Kansas City, Missouri and Johnson County, KS this year.
Two clean-ups are already scheduled and another ten will be soon. Go here to our Volunteer Opportunities page if you’d like to sign up to join us in cleaning up litter this spring.