Let's Stop the Trash at the Source!
Every spring since 2002, 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 record-keeping started in 2006, we have collected
3,343 bags of trash and recyclables
177 shopping carts
thousands of pounds of bulk trash.
A large and growing share (about half the bags we fill) is recyclable water bottles.
How Bad Is It, Really?
People have asked me if the photo above (taken at Janna Lee Avenue bridge) is photoshopped. It's not. See for yourself the trash we confront every year, in photos of past cleanups in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.
Trash Action Work Force
Current policies and laws do not work. Without incentives to change their behavior, litterers will continue littering.
There are no incentives for producers of littered material to prevent it from reaching our streams, roadways, and neighborhoods.
Why should people who do not litter continue to pick up after people who do?
To do something about it, we teamed up with Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Lake Accotink Park, Friends of Huntley Meadows, Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Sierra Club (Great Falls and Mount Vernon Groups), Clean Water Action, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Fairfax 350, and Potomac Riverkeepers to form the Northern Virginia Trash Action Work Force
Trash Action Target #1: International Bottled Water Association
Headquartered in Alexandria, the IBWA lobbies against bottle deposits and other laws and policies that might reduce bottle container litter. In August 2017, they successfully lobbied the Trump administration to drop a ban on sale of water in disposable bottles in national parks.
We met with the president and vice-president of the International Bottled Water Association, and asked them to consider steps to reduce the litter their product creates: (1) ask IBWA members to display a more prominent “Recycle me” on water bottles, (2) attend Alice Ferguson Foundation's Trash Summit this fall, (3) more forthrightly acknowledge the significance of water bottle litter, and (4) reconsider and drop IBWA's opposition to bottle deposits.
We've invited them to participate in our Little Hunting Creek cleanup—it's only 8 miles from their headquarters—to see the problem for themselves.
IBWA did not agree to any of our requests. They never showed up for a cleanup. It must be easier to write PR about what a insignificant proportion of the waste stream water bottles contribute if you never see how they clog up local streams.
“IBWA, you dropped something”
On the morning of May 8, 2017, we held a demonstration at the IBWA headquarters, 1700 Diagonal Rd, Alexandria, near the King Street Metro Station.
We brought a few of the water bottles volunteers had collected during spring cleanups of Little Hunting Creek and Accotink Creek, just to show IBWA how their product ends up. If they won't come to a cleanup, we'll bring a cleanup to them.
Led by Delegate Paul Krizek, a small but vocal band of creatively–costumed demonstrators marched around the building.
We engaged and inspired Monday morning commuters with reusable watter bottles, litter-themed costumes, and handouts.
Citizens' Action Plan for Litter Prevention
In 2011, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations (MVCCA) passed a resolution in support of Citizens' Action Plan for Litter Prevention and asked that Fairfax County 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.
As of 2017, none of these steps have been taken. Urge your County Supervisor and your Virginia Delegate and Senator to take action to reduce litter!