Be Environmentally Friendly When Out and About

Mar 23, 2018

If you’ve been driving the local roads for a year or more, you likely have seen all sorts of trashy items strewn amid the foliage off the shoulder, or plastic bags flapping in the easterly breeze while stuck to tree limbs, or that cigarette butt bouncing into the grill of your vehicle after being tossed from a window a few car lengths ahead of you.

Well, just as it’s not OK to ditch litter along the roads, it’s equally wrong to leave such filth along the local waterfronts.

“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of this beautiful place in which we live and visit,” said Stafford Township Councilwoman Sharon McKenna, who has a long history with environmental legislation and advocacy, nationally and locally. “Have respect for the environment because it’s the right thing to do, and follow the rules about cleaning up after yourself because those rules are in place for a reason.”

As the weather starts warming up, many locals will get out among Barnegat Bay’s coves, the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and all the waterways in between. And as more visitors arrive to enjoy boating on the bay, fishing in the surf and acquiring that summer tan from a stout chair on the sand, extra trash and litter are bound to accumulate as a result.

But that doesn’t mean the garbage has to be left behind for the fish to get caught in, the gulls to ingest or children to swim around.

“When we do our annual Barnegat Bay Blitz, the goal is to have the least amount of stuff picked up,” said Angela Andersen, another of many local environmental advocates and Long Beach Township’s sustainability coordinator. “Keeping the environment clean is a daily practice that people should do, and it’s about making it a habit to be consciously aware of what’s being left behind in your environment and doing something about it.”

Sure, it’s all right to enjoy the beaches and waterways while eating your lunch or having a cup of your favorite Wawa coffee. Just don’t let things – your wrappings, bottles or straws and stirrers – get away. And if something somehow slips from your grip, retrieve it.

“The top three things I see left on the beaches are straws, water and soda bottle caps, and plastics, whether they be bags, films or packaging of some kind,” Andersen said. “Litter, mostly, is reflective of our culture. And unfortunately, some of these things are hard to see when they’re in the sand, or they caught in a wind and fly around easily.”

Translation: Whether you’re chilling in a boat, soaking up some rays on the beach, fishing from a dock or merely walking around – if the wind’s blowing, be careful. And for goodness sake, don’t feed the local wildlife, particularly the gulls.

“Besides the fact they can be aggressive and can traumatize small children who aren’t used to a flock of gulls descending upon them, it’s not a good idea to feed them because they learn to go after trash,” McKenna said. “If a gull associates its eating with what’s in your bag, it probably will go to a nearby trash can and start ripping into bags. And then that trash could be flying around the beach and getting into the ocean, and then the sea life is affected.”

Additionally, Andersen said, locals and visitors alike should pay closer attention to the signage at the entranceways to most beaches. Many of those signs contain valuable information regarding trash and recyclables. Some locations even have monofilm containers.

“In the township, we make it as convenient as possible for beachgoers to throw away their trash and recyclables,” she said. “We have bins everywhere, and they’re strategically placed so that you’re never more than a short distance from one. And if one trash bin or recycle can is full, get in your 10,000 steps and find another bin nearby to throw it away properly. But don’t leave it in the sand where you were sitting. Be proud of your space and clean it up when you’re leaving.”

So what if you’re a witness to somebody leaving behind their trash? Andersen suggested not being overly confrontational about it, but rather encouraging the individual to pick it up and use a nearby trash or recycle bin.

“Don’t get in somebody’s face. Just remind them that there’s a trash bin nearby,” she said. “But, nowadays, a lot of people are afraid to speak up or confront anybody doing it, so in that case I suggest being the example. Pick it up and get rid of it yourself.”

McKenna believes most people are cognizant of the bigger things they potentially can leave behind and properly dispose of them. She encourages everybody to simply be a little more aware of what’s in hand that can end up in the local waters and to take care to make sure nothing ends up there.

“Yes, just be aware,” she said. “You’re responsible for what you bring into the environment, and you’re responsible for taking it with you when you leave or making sure it gets into a trash or recycle can. Be the good steward, that’s all.”

David Biggy

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