NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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This 4th of July, Don’t Feed the Animals…Your Plastic


By: Dianna Parker

For many Americans, the Fourth of July holiday weekend is the prime time to head to nearest river, lake, or beach and picnic outdoors. If you’re like me, you do both activities at the same time. What could be better than drinking lemonade and eating summertime food with a view of the water? Top 10 Marine Debris Items Collected.

While you’re out there having fun this year, we challenge you to do your part and keep any trash from your picnic out of the water. According to data from last year’s International Coastal Cleanup, most of the top items cleaned up from shorelines across the country were plastic and food-related.  Cigarette butts (made of plastic!) were number one, but take a look at the rest. Food wrappers, plastic  beverage bottles and caps, straws, and grocery bags round out the top six. Beverage cans also make the list at number 10.

These statistics mean we must do more to better manage our trash, and it can start with you. Here are some tips to keep in mind for your picnic “pack in and pack out”:

1. Find alternatives to single-use plastics. If you have a reusable thermos for drinks or a lunchbox for stashing sandwiches, then use them!

2. If you use any recyclable plastics, make sure they make it into a recycling bin. We can’t recover plastics if they’re sitting in landfills.

3. Before you leave, scan your picnic area for any rogue trash that fell on the ground and pick it up.

4. If a trash can is overflowing, then find another one. Wind, rain, or scavengers could scatter the overflowing trash and increase its chances of reaching the ocean. In other words, don’t do this:

An overflowing trash can on the beach in North Carolina: Credit: Danielle Richardet

An overflowing trash can on the beach in North Carolina: Credit: Danielle Richardet

Taking these easy steps will not only keep the beach clean for others to enjoy, but it may help out wildlife as well. Here’s the thing about plastic: when it goes in the water, it doesn’t degrade. Instead, it breaks apart into tiny pieces. Some species of animals mistake these tiny pieces for food, and eating them can cause serious injury. They will thank you for keeping their habitat clean, and so will we.

Happy Independence Day, and happy picnicking!

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

3 thoughts on “This 4th of July, Don’t Feed the Animals…Your Plastic

  1. Pingback: NYC Marine Science Festival: SUBMERGE! | NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

  2. Pingback: Keep Your Holidays Happy and Your Impact Low | NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

  3. Pingback: Give the Ocean a Gift by Reducing Your Holiday Waste | NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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