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April Showers Bring Marine Debris

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By: Dianna Parker

April is typically a rainy month for parts of the United States, so much so that springtime precipitation has its own saying. “April showers bring May flowers,” or so we’ve been told.

Rain also brings another, less desirable feature to our lives: marine debris.

After a heavy rain, stormwater runoff (the water that flows along streets or along the ground as a result of a storm) can move litter from streets and parking lots into storm drains that empty into streams, rivers, and other bodies of water. Even trash that is generated hundreds of miles inland can become marine debris if it is blown or washed into rivers or streams and carried to sea.

Litter rests on top of a storm drain. Credit: Sheila Steele, Flickr.

Litter rests on top of a storm drain. Credit: Sheila Steele, Flickr.

During storms with heavy winds, trash can be blown or washed directly into the ocean if it is littered or disposed of carelessly near the shore.

Some cities have installed grates over storm drains or filtration systems to keep trash out, but individuals can help, too. Here are a few ways you can help make sure flowers are all we see on the ground this year:

1. Don’t litter or dump trash in storm drains! Littering and dumping are huge causes of marine debris. Besides being against the law in most places, remember that your litter can still become marine debris, even if you are in an inland city. It doesn’t matter where you are – rain and wind can take your trash to the ocean.

2. Try not to overload public trash cans. If a trash can is overflowing with garbage, chances are the piece you balanced on the very top will fall or blow off. Just find a different can.

3. Join a stream cleanup. There are tons of cleanups scheduled for this spring, including here in the Mid-Atlantic where it gets pretty rainy.

4. Anticipate! If wet or windy weather is in the forecast, try to schedule a neighborhood cleanup before the storm, and consider not leaving your full garbage, recycling, or compost bins on the street until the weather has passed.

Happy spring!

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.

One thought on “April Showers Bring Marine Debris

  1. Thanks for the article and tips. Our two young founders decided to fight marine debris and other forms of plastic pollution by creating an award winning curriculum on the issue. Check it out and let us know what you think:

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