Working to Stop Trash at the Source!
How Bad Is It, Really?
Every spring since 2002 (except 2020, cancelled due to the pandemic), the Friends of Little Hunting Creek have cleaned up trash in and along the creek. Year after year, more litter keeps coming, and we are sick of it.
Since we started keeping records in 2006,
1,675 volunteers collected
3,820 bags of trash and recyclables,
180 shopping carts, and
thousands of pounds of bulk trash.
A large and growing share (about half the bags we fill) is recyclable water bottles.
People have asked if the photo above (taken at Janna Lee Avenue bridge in 2012) is photoshopped. It's not. See for yourself the trash we've confronted over the years in past cleanups in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.
What Will Stop the Litter?
Without incentives to change their behavior, litterers will not stop littering. By "litterers," we include companies who do not take steps to prevent their products from becoming litter—such as bottled water companies—as well as garden variety litterers who toss fast food trash or beer cans from a car window.
We advocate for deposits on water bottles, so that people have an incentive to return them to receive the deposit. We advocate bans or fees on most single-use, disposable plastic bags, to reduce the amount of plastic available in the environment to become litter.
For years, we've written letters, lobbied our local legislators and Fairfax County officials, and testified in favor of policies and laws that would reduce litter. Not until the 2020 session, when the Virginia General Assembly changed parties, did we see success.
In 2017, Friends of Little Hunting Creek teamed up with Friends of Accotink Creek, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Fairfax 350, and other groups to form the Northern Virginia Trash Action Work Force
After first talking, writing, and trying to engage with polite requests, we demonstrated at the headquarters of the International Bottled Water Association, which lobbies against bottle deposits and other laws and policies that might reduce bottle container litter. They had successfully lobbied the Trump administration in 2017 to drop a ban on the sale of water in disposable bottles in national parks.
Just what the country needs! More water bottle litter in its national parks.
We brought just a few of the water bottles cleanup volunteers had collected from Little Hunting Creek and Accotink Creek, to show IBWA how their product ends up. If they won't come to a cleanup, we'll bring a cleanup to them.
We had so much fun we demonstrated again at the IBWA for Halloween. We held a Walk to the River in Alexandria, and organized a demonstration at Nestles in 2018. To its credit, however, Nestles has dropped its opposition to bottle deposit laws, and followed up by meeting with us. They appear far more serious than most about trying to implement real environmental change in their practices.
Friends of Little Hunting Creek —Letters and Testimony in Favor of Litter Reduction Laws, and other Environmental Issues
Testimony prepared in support of Senate Bill 631,“Abandoned and stolen shopping carts; local regulation,” introduced by Senator Scott Surovell, House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns, Richmond, 28 February 2020.
Testimony in support of Senate Bill 1553, “Urban county executive form of government; abandoned shopping carts,” introduced by Senator Scott Surovell, House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns, Richmond, 13 February 2019.
Comments on Richmond Highway Corridor Improvements from Jeff Todd Way to Napper Road, submitted to VDOT 6 December 2017.
Comment on the Trump administration's proposed rescinding of 2015 Clean Water Rule, submitted to EPA 28 August 2017.
Testimony in support of Senate Bill 925, “Plastic Bag Tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” introduced by Senator J. Chapman Peterson, Senate Finance Committee, Richmond, 18 January 2017.
“Thirsting for Help with Controlling Litter”, published in The Washington Post Local Opinion, 24 July 2015.
Presentation urging passage of a disposable plastic bag fee bill, presented at a public hearing for the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly, 4 January 2014.
Resolution opposing Fairfax County's Fall Cankerworm spray program, adopted by the Friends in 2014.
Testimony in support of House Bill 2011 “Urban county executive form of government; abandoned personal property” introduced by Delegate Scott Surovell, Counties, Cities and Towns House Committee, Richmond, 4 January 2013.
Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations (MVCCA) Anti-litter Resolutions
Working through the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations (MVCCA), members of the Friends of Little Hunting Creek and others drafted a Citizens' Action Plan for Litter Prevention that asked Fairfax County to take the following actions to increase recycling and reduce litter:
Fully implement a recycling program in Fairfax County Public Schools, and use it to support education in environmental stewardship,
Revise the recycling ordinance to require all businesses to recycle cans and bottles, in addition to paper and cardboard,
Adopt a litter control ordinance,
Conduct anti-litter public information campaigns and increase enforcement of anti-littering laws,
Request the Virginia Litter Control and Recycling Fund Advisory Board to promulgate regulations requiring that litter receptacles be placed in public places, and
Require recycling at county events, and require users of outdoor park and school properties to remove all trash.
The MVCCA further asked the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to add the following requests to the county's legislative agenda to reduce litter over the long term:
Request state legislators to pass and the Governor to sign a bill that bans polystyrene and requires biodegradable packaging for take-out food,
Request state legislators to pass and the Governor to sign a bill that implements a beverage container deposit law,
Request state legislators to pass and the Governor to sign a bill that imposes a fee on single-use plastic or paper shopping bags, or that authorizes localities to do so, and
Request the Virginia Litter Control and Recycling Fund Advisory Board and the state legislature to raise the annual litter tax (which has been $25 since 1987) and use the proceeds to fund litter prevention, cleanups and outreach.
Enabling Legislation To Authorize Localities To Adopt A Single Use Bag Fee, resolution adopted by MVCCA 24 July 2013.
Resolution on Citizens' Action Plan for Litter Prevention, adopted by MVCCA 26 October 2011.
Resolution/Letter encouraging litter control adopted by MVCCA 10 July 2011.
Letter urging passage of a bottle deposit law, presented at a public hearing for the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly, Fairfax County Government Center, January 9, 2010.