Litter - An Increasing Challenge


The trash littering stream banks and floating down waterways is a result of society becoming increasingly “disposable.” Snack food wrappers; Styrofoam cups and fast food containers; plastic bottles, lids, and straws; paper and plastic bags; and cigarette and cigar butts are frequently discarded on concrete or asphalt surfaces. When it rains, these items are carried into storm drains, pipes, and culverts by stormwater runoff, then out, completely unfiltered, into creeks, rivers, and bays.

With over half of the people in the United States living in coastal counties, conversion of the natural landscape to hard, developed surfaces has resulted in an increase in stormwater runoff carrying more nonpoint source pollution, including trash, to the waters that attracted us here.

Many cities have created regulations to stop littering, but enforcing them is, at best, difficult. Individual acts of littering are widespread and without a pattern, making enforcement a huge challenge. Budgets and staffing of responsible agencies are frequently not adequate to pursue cases related to littering and dumping or to follow up on citizen reports.