How to Reduce Pandemic Litter
Single-use items, such as masks, take-out containers and zip-top bags, end up in the watershed when not disposed of properly. (Photo courtesy of Janet Cass)
Are you tired of seeing used masks and gloves dropped in the parking lot at the grocery store? Me, too!
“Pandemic litter” is a relatively new problem, but pollution is nothing new. I grew up watching the ad that admonished, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!”
Battling the coronavirus requires the use of some single-use items, but they don’t have to end up on the ground!
Here are three tips to help keep Mississippi beautiful!
- Prevent: Eliminate litter through personal choices. Dispose of your own trash properly. Whenever possible, choose reusable water bottles and cloth face coverings, and be sure to wash them.
- Participate: September and October are great months to join local efforts to reduce the trash that makes its way to the ocean. You’ll get a firsthand look at how much junk is in our environment.
- The “Celebrate the Pearl” challenge runs through the month of September with a variety of activities designed to reduce litter in the environment and increase participation in outdoor activities. This project is organized by Pearl Riverkeeper organization.
- The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup program, organized by the MSU Extension Service, has been adapted for the pandemic. Participants can register online and borrow clean-up kits to conduct their own family-based or individual clean-up activities. Each kit will contain instructions for documenting the litter picked up to maintain the ongoing citizen science project identifying the most commonly littered items on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
- Create your own clean-up event with your family or friends. You don’t have to wait for an official event or organization -- get outside and pick up some litter the next time you’re on a hike, playing at the park, or walking in your neighborhood. Remember to wear gloves and wash your hands when you get home!
- Ponder: Stop and think about the big picture: litter has a big impact on people’s perceptions of a community. It can turn off visitors, and it can encourage more littering because it seems like no one cares. Litter is also harmful to wildlife, whether they eat it or use it for nesting materials. Throwing your fast food bag out the car window may be an easy way to get rid of it, but is it the right thing to do for your community and local animals?
To learn more about the impact of litter on wildlife, check out “Take steps to reduce pandemic litter,” our feature story with Extension scientists Dr. Eric Sparks and Dr. Adam Rohnke.
Curious about what ends up on the beach? The 2019 Mississippi Coastal Cleanup report gives you the details.
If you want to learn more about protecting our Gulf Coast and the positive effect less trash can have, you’ll love the Citizen’s Guide to Protecting the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Marine Debris.
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