Archive | plastic water bottles

Parties in the Woods: Litter and Fires

Fires set by groups of young people “hanging out” in the woods in Fairfax County are posing a real threat to the environment. Typically, small groups of students, usually high school age, will find wooded areas to congregate, often during the school day. Many times they have brought snacks and beverages, sometimes alcoholic beverages. Not wanting to show they have been cutting class—and, in some cases, illegally drinking— they will usually leave the packaging in the woods. Piles of cans, bottles, wrappers, etc. dot the wooded areas surrounding some of our high schools. More conscientious students even put everything in a bag and tie it up, though they still leave the bagged litter rather than try to dispose of it properly.

While this litter is a nuisance and does have an environmental impact on area wildlife that gets entrapped or ingests the litter, when groups decide to add a bonfire to their party in the woods, they are inviting possible environmental devastation, particularly as we get into the dryer months and students are out of school with more time on their hands.

Please immediately report to the police department any evidence of fire activity or ongoing problems with litter piles left over from “parties” in the woods.

June 8: World Oceans Day

In 2008 the United Nations proclaimed June 8 World Oceans Day. This year the theme is Our Oceans, Our Future. The conservation action focus isencouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future.”

According to the Oceanic Institute, oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water. With such great volume of water, how can litter be a problem?

We’ve all seen litter debris wash up on the beaches ruining the beach aesthetic and posing a potential health problem as beachcombers walk barefoot along the shore and toxins leach out of the litter. Some who have gone snorkeling or diving may have also encountered plastic bags, parts of fishing gear, plastic bottles, etc. below the surface of the ocean. And, of course, there are the entanglement problems: animals with plastic bags or plastic six pack holders wrapped around them. And ingestion situations: sea creatures with assorted garbage in their stomachs.

Particularly unbelievable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, described as a soupy collection of marine debris—mostly plastics – with estimates measuring it at anywhere from 270,000 square miles (about the size of Texas) to 5,800,000 square miles (more than one and a half times the size of the United States). Similar, though somewhat smaller, swatches of floating litter, primarily large plastic pieces and the small micro-plastics these break down into, exist in the other oceans as well.

And marine litter has permeated even to the deepest parts of the ocean. Dr. Lucy Woodall, a scientist at the University of Oxford, conducted two large-scale surveys of deep sea areas in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and found litter at all locations, despite the depth of the samples and the remoteness of the locations.

And this is just the visible litter. Dr. Woodall’s sampling of deep sea organisms found evidence of ingested fibers in every creature.

This summer, when you head to the beach, be sure to pack out what you bring in. Consider going the extra step and picking up any litter you see.

And remember that the litter problem actually begins miles away from the ocean: our waterways here in Fairfax County go into the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean.

Start with an effort to keep our waterways in Fairfax County free from litter. Contact Clean Fairfax if you have seen a trashy area you would like to clean up and need gloves and bags.

For more information about World Oceans Day go to http://www.worldoceansday.org/

Community Groups Fight the “Battle of the Bottle” by Kris Unger, Friends of Accotink Creek

The NOVA Trash Action Work Force’s (TAWF) first Day of Action on May 8, 2017 was a success! We protested at the headquarters of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), calling out their opposition to litter reduction initiatives. The IBWA opposes bottle deposit bills, bans on sale of water in disposable bottles in national parks, and other initiatives to reduce trash in our streams. We had at least 30 people, and people brought a lot of creative energy and enthusiasm to the protest. The day started cold and early, but we persisted, setting up our display of bags of plastic water bottles retrieved during stream cleanups at two parking spots across from the building. We had a great mix of signs and messages, from sharpies, cardboard and glitter fish to posters by graphic designers!

More pictures here: https://hku60.smugmug.com/FACC/FACC-TAWF-IBWA-050817

Also, https://www.facebook.com/pg/novatawf/photos/

Friends of Accotink Creek’s Philip Latasa deserves special recognition for his creative contributions, from puppets made of water bottles to an aerial campaign, sending (tethered) balloons up to IBWA’s offices with the message “IBWA, your plastic doesn’t go away!” Friends of Little Hunting Creek formed a strong leadership core throughout the campaign, and Eleanor Quigley took up the flag and led us on our march around the building. Friends of Lake Accotink Park’s Meghan Walker managed planning and coordination like a pro! Clean Fairfax‘s Wendy Cohen​ and Toni Genberg,  and volunteer Sue Freilich, handed out 200 reusable water bottles and flyers at the adjacent King Street Metro, catching the morning rush.

We were especially grateful to have two local Virginia politicians join us:

Delegate Paul Krizek (44th District) took up the flag and led us for awhile – he’s been a strong leader on trash reduction initiatives and a great supporter. Later Tilly Blanding, candida
te delegate for District 42 marched with us, and led us in song she made up on the spot: “Power to the People / Not this Plastic./ We’re out here marching, / ‘Cause things are getting drastic!”

​ – Watch the video!

​Representatives from l​ocal environmental groups including Friends of Dyke Marsh

​ (Glenda Booth)​ Friends of Huntley Meadows (Cathy Ledec)​, the Sierra Club (Great Falls Group)

​ (Norbert Pink)​, and the Alice Ferguson Foundation also joined us – We’re stronger together!

This was our first Action, and we’re very pleased with how it turned out. We’re glad that we invested a lot of time in planning and coordinating this event, because that resulted in a strong team with good diversity – everyone brought different skills and interests to the table, and we worked to find ways that we could collaborate and support each other.

We don’t know what our next step will be, but given today’s success, we know there will be one!

Special thanks to our partners and co-sponsors, who helped with planning, outreach​, advice and support!

Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment

​Clean Water Action​

Friends of Accotink Creek

Friends of Dyke MarshFACC-TAWF-IBWA-050817 – hku60

Friends of Huntley Meadows

Friends of Lake Accotink Park

Friends of Little Hunting Creek

Sierra Club (Great Falls Group)

TRASH DAY OF ACTION: Battle of the Bottle

 

Pohick Creek. Difficult Run. Little Hunting Creek.

Yep, these are some of our streams here in Fairfax County. Notice the prevalence of plastic bottles!

If you think this is a problem, come join the Trash Action Work Force (TAWF), a coalition of citizen groups, in a peaceful demonstration on Monday, May 8, from 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. in front of the International Bottled Water Association at 1700 Diagonal Road in Alexandria. Clean Fairfax will be distributing free REUSABLE water bottles at the King Street Metro Station.

The action intends to draw attention to the significant role of disposable plastic water bottles in the scourge of litter in the streams and waterways of Northern Virginia. Despite years of volunteer cleanups, this litter keeps coming back. This litter is not only ugly, but also impacts wildlife.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvE0FZHe6ls

The International Bottled Water Association, the location of our rally, has lobbied heavily to overturn legislation that allows national parks to ban disposable water bottles. About twenty parks have this ban in place and there is evidence that there has been a reduction in litter issues. Congress is preparing to approve a bill to support the International Bottled Water Association’s plan to put disposable water bottles back in the parks. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article148174439.html

TAWF membership includes Friends of Accotink Creek, Dyke Marsh, Huntley Meadows, Lake Accotink Park, Little Hunting Creek, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Clean Water Action, and Sierra Club (Great Falls and Mount Vernon Groups)  More at https://www.facebook.com/novatawf/

Thank you to Elaine Sevy, concerned Fairfax County resident and active member of Friends of Accotink Creek,  for providing the following fact sheet:

Why Make the Switch to Reusable Water Bottles?

Billions of disposable water bottles become litter.  Last year, Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only about 23 percent.  The average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled approximately 38 of those bottles (Source: banthebottle.net).  Tragically, the bottles that aren’t recycled end up in streams, rivers and the ocean, or in landfills.

Disposable plastic bottles can take 450 years to decompose.  In the article “Why You Should Never Drink Bottled Water Again” by Nathaniel Berman, a major concern is raised that plastic water bottles “…can take up to 450 years to decompose, further releasing contaminants into the soil, water and air.”  (ECOwatch.com)

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink? Tap water and bottled water are generally comparable in terms of safety,” said Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., with the Mayo Clinic. “So the choice of tap or bottled is mostly a matter of personal preference.” (www.mayoclinic.org). More than 90 percent of U.S. water systems meet all regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Excerpt from a today.com article titled “How to Flush Your Bottled Water Habit.”)

Is Bottled Water Just Tap Water in Disguise?   Twenty-four percent of bottled water sold in the United States is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of the market). Both brands are bottled, purified municipal water.” (Source:  banthebottle.net)

Good quality reusable bottles are affordable and available.  As of April 2017, analysts at thewirecutter.com have conducted more than three years of research into all types of reusable bottles including steel, insulated, plastic, glass and collapsible.  Many of these products are dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean and sanitize.  Click on the link for their suggestions and where to find them, http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-water-bottle/.

Electrolytes can be added to water in your reusable bottle.  Gatorade and other brands of electrolytes are available in single-use packets and multiple serving canisters for use in reusable bottles.  These products are available through Amazon and other retailers.  All-natural electrolyte packets and canisters also are available through Amazon and at local merchants such as Whole Foods.

Filtering Your Own Tap Water Saves a Bundle.  How much bottled water will $80 buy?  “In single servings it’s about 11 gallons,” calculates Emily Wurth, director of water policy at Food & Water Watch.  “So even if you’re a moderate water drinker who downs just one 16-ounce bottle a day, you’ll spend about $80 for just a 3 months’ supply, or 11 gallons worth, of bottled water.  That same $80 will get you at least a year’s worth of filtered tap water.” ((Excerpt from a today.com article titled “How to Flush Your Bottled Water Habit.”)

An average water pitcher filters 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day.  With so many filter brands (Brita, PUR, ZeroWater, etc.) and types (pitcher, faucet attachment, under the sink, etc.) to choose from, a good place to start your research is choosykitchen.com, “Water Filter Reviews” by Kelly Burgess, March 2017.

 

 

Volunteer for a Cleanup!

Here are some opportunities to help get rid of the litter that clogs our streams and pollutes our parks in Fairfax County:

 

Alice Ferguson Foundation has its 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on Saturday, April 8. For more information go to http://fergusonfoundation.org/trash-free-potomac-watershed-initiative/potomac-river-watershed-cleanup/

 

 

 

Stream Cleanup at Old Lee Highway Bridge

Saturday, April 8, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Old Lee Highway Bridge

3251 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 

Park near the bridge, behind the Home Depot lot – https://goo.gl/8gWdSo

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Chain Bridge Rd

Saturday, April 8, 2017

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Chain Bridge Rd

10399 Layton Hall Drive, Fairfax, VA 

Park on Layton Hall Drive, and meet at the intersection with University Drive – https://goo.gl/iIb4Jx

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Fairfax Blvd Bridge

Saturday, April 8, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Accotink Creek at Fairfax Blvd Bridge

9904 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA

Park and meet in the Regency Furniture/P.J. Skidoos parking lot – https://goo.gl/5T460t

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Telegraph Road Bridge

Stream Cleanup at Accotink Gorge / Fullerton Rd Bridge

Saturday, April 15, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Accotink Gorge (Behind Springfield Costco)

7373 Boston Blvd, Springfield, VA (map)

Park and meet in the far corner of the Costco parking lot, by the tire shop – https://goo.gl/oyMonr

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

 Stream Cleanup at Pohick Square HOA

Saturday, April 22, 2017

9 a.m. – Noon

(Rain or shine)

Meet at Timarand Court in the Pohick Square HOA

For more information call –

Joyce Steed (571) 642-6000

 

Stream Cleanup at Barkley Drive Bridge

Saturday, April 22, 2017

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Barkley Drive

3299 Barkley Drive, Fairfax, VA

Park on Karen Drive, continue south on Barkley on foot 60 yards to Accotink Creek – https://goo.gl/MDnXyp

 

Stream Cleanup at Woodburn Road Bridge

Saturday, April 22, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Accotink Creek at Woodburn Road Bridge

3601 Woodburn Rd, Fairfax, VA

Parking available on Spicewood Drive – https://goo.gl/Y6QXc3

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Pickett Road

Saturday, April 22, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Thaiss Park / Accotink Creek at Pickett Road Bridge

3401 Pickett Road, Fairfax, VA 

Park in Thaiss Park. Meet at the CCT trailhead – https://goo.gl/BuudVG

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Wakefield Park (Braddock Road Bridge)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Wakefield Park (Braddock Road bridge)

8100 Braddock Road, Annandale, VA 

Enter Wakefield Park, park in the first ball-field parking lot on the left – https://goo.gl/OiQl3D

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at Americana Park (Little River Turnpike)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Americana Park (Accotink Creek at Little River Turnpike)

4131 Accotink Pkwy, Annandale, VA

Park on King Arthur Road and meet near the bridge/ CCT trailhead – https://goo.gl/eit7nePark in Americana Park near the “Delayed Harvest Trout Waters” sign – https://goo.gl/ATpg7K

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

 

Stream Cleanup at King Arthur Road Bridge

Saturday, April 29, 2017

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Accotink Creek at King Arthur Rd Bridge

3808 King Arthur Rd, Annandale, VA 

Park on King Arthur Road and meet near the bridge/ CCT trailhead – https://goo.gl/eit7ne

Please sign up here – http://accotink.org/PWCSignUp.htm

DIY and Environmental Sustainability

There is a plethora of do-it yourself (DIY) ideas on the internet that promote environmental sustainability. From 100 Ways to Repurpose and Reuse Broken Household Items http://www.diyncrafts.com/6081/repurpose/100-ways-repurpose-reuse-broken-household-items to ideas on how to extend the useful life of old clothes, dilapidated furniture, and even used tires, broken tools, construction debris, and ripped wrapping paper. (See blogs dated 11/8/2016 and 12/22/2016 for the latter two.)

The term “upcycling” is often used to describe this repurposing of objects that have lost their initial usefulness. According to dictionary.com, the definition for upcycle is “to process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original” as in “I upcycled a stained tablecloth into curtains.”

Some environmental purists, however, claim that upcycling requires the materials to go back up the supply chain rather than just make the chain a bit longer. They claim that for something to be considered truly upcycled, rather than recycled, it must be a process that can be repeated over and over without the material ending up in the landfill.  For example, they point to soda cans which can be melted down and made into brand new cans. and in the process save over 90% of the energy required to make new ones from scratch. This cycle can continue in perpetuity, reducing energy consumption and effectively removing certain materials from the waste stream. Newsprint can also work this way. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, are usually recycled into carpets, or toys, or winter fleeces which will eventually become trash.

Whether do-it-yourself projects are really recycling rather than upcycling can be debated. However, indisputably, DIY projects can be amazingly ingenious ways to turn potential problems into nifty solutions.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5rhVIwhIs5sbERVY0pwY0E2dVU/view?usp=sha

We Are Closer to the Ocean Than You Think

In Fairfax County, VA, the nearest ocean beach is several hours away by car.  Why should we concern ourselves with marine litter problems?

Fairfax County is part of the Potomac Watershed, and therefore all streams lead to the Potomac River which goes to the Chesapeake Bay and then out to the Atlantic Ocean. Streams and rivers, by definition, flow. The litter that blows or is washed off driveways, parking lots, roads, yards, rooftops, and other hard surfaces often ends up in the myriad of streams that crisscross our county, and therefore potentially can drift to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, according to the most recent EPA white paper on pollution from plastics, while ocean dumping remains a problem, plastic debris originates primarily from land-based activities including landfills and littering.

Other interesting findings from the December 2016 EPA publication entitled “State of the Science White Paper: A Summary of Literature on the Chemical Toxicity of Plastic Pollutants to Aquatic Life and Aquatic-Dependent Wildlife” indicate that the amount of plastic debris, which includes plastic bags and microbeads, has risen greatly in marine environments over the last number of years and now accounts for 60%-80% of marine litter. Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic, barely visible to the naked eye, that have been added to many personal care cosmetic products. These flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system and cannot be filtered out effectively by wastewater treatment plants, thus ending up in our streams, and eventually,  the ocean.

The effect of ocean litter goes beyond the negative aesthetics of having a trashy ocean. Aquatic animals can become entangled in plastic debris, or fatally ill from the chemicals when plastic is ingested.  The whole ocean ecosystem is put at risk.

Yes, our actions here in Fairfax County DO affect the ocean. Reducing the use of plastics, particularly plastic bags, and buying personal care products that do not contain microbeads are some first steps. Ensuring that we dispose of trash appropriately and do not allow litter to end up in our streams is another important step. Finally, cleaning existing litter out of streams also prevents greater environmental impact. Consider planning a cleanup of a “trashy” stream near you for this coming spring.

One more way to help: Adidas is making sneakers made from 3-D printed recycled ocean waste, and though they are rather expensive, this is definitely a cool “reclaim” idea. Check it out at http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/4/13518784/this-adidas-sneaker-made-from-recycled-ocean-waste-is-going-on-sale-this-month

For more information about the problem of plastics in our marine environments go to https://www.epa.gov/wqc/aquatic-life-ambient-water-quality-criteria#plastics

Green Your Next Event

overflowing-bins-glasto-1024x827America Recycles Day, November 15, 2016 has arrived—and I want to talk about a pet peeve: Large events that provide NO recycling options! I have recently attended indoor and outdoor sporting events, a large training event with teenagers, and a wedding. In every instance, huge quantities of bottles and cans were thrown into the garbage, not because the facility did not have recycling on the premises, but rather because they did not make it easy for participants to recycle.

People want to recycle. According to an April, 2016 Pew Research Center Report, 39% of U.S. adults say the term “environmentalist” described them very well. Data from a Pew 2014 survey shows that close to half, 46%, of Americans say they recycle or reduce waste to protect the environment whenever possible.

So we need to give people a chance to recycle: If you are planning a personal or work event, check with your venue to ensure that adequate recycling options are available for the guests or participants making it easy for them to recycle.

One easy way to ensure that you are “greening” your event is to find Virginia Green Certified venues. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), and the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association (VRLTA) have partnered together to provide opportunities for facilities to reduce the environmental impacts of the tourism and events industry and raise environmental awareness.va-green-logo

To become VA Green Certified, Convention and Conference Centers must at a minimum

  • Provide Recycling:provide for recycling at their events
  • Minimize the use of disposable food service products:use products that are made from bio-based or renewable resources and provide for recycling or composting of items
  • Water Efficiency:must have a plan for conserving and using water efficiently
  • Energy Conservation:must have a plan in place to reduce overall energy consumption
  • Support Green Conferences & Events: must offer a “green” or “environmentally-friendly” package for events.

For ideas on Green Events, please check out the fact-sheet on Environmentally-Responsible Conferences, Meeting, and Eventshttp://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/PollutionPrevention/VirginiaGreen/8-4-11_Green_Events.pdf

To find lists of Virginia Green Certified facilities, go tohttp://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/PollutionPrevention/VirginiaGreen/GreenConventionsConferences.aspx

 

 

The Case for Reusable Water Bottles:

America Recycles Day is coming on November 15!

We all know that single-use water bottles are terrible for the environment. The statistics are staggering:  According to National Geographic, Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles to waste disposal. Additionally, in order to make all these bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months. For every six water bottles Americans use, only one makes it to the recycling bin. Just look around: plastic bottle litter is everywhere.

The fight against single-use water bottles, however, is a tough one: they’re convenient and many believe bottled water is “purer” than tap water.

Coconvenient-water-bottlesnvenience includes both the carrying and the refilling aspects of the water bottle. The advent of sleek, attractive reusable water bottles designed to fit into a purse or ergonomically designed for easy holding, makes carrying your own personal reusable water bottle much more convenient. And many of these are manufactured sustainably.

Also, more and more locations have rapid bottle filling capacity making the filling process easy and quick. For example, Primo Water has filling stations at local retailers. You can use their store locator at   http://www.primowater.com/Great-Value-FILL-IT-YOURSELF.aspx.

hydration-station

For even greater convenience, consider getting your workplace or local school a hydration station.
Brita offers a reusable bottle sale fundraising program that incurs no out-of pocket costs. Check out the details at http://britahydrationstation.com/pages/fundraising.

Tap water has been given a bad rap. First of all, according to Food and Water Watch, more than half of all bottled water comes from the tap. Also, tap water is usually tested more frequently than bottled water to comply with Federal standards. If taste is an issue, often due to chlorination or mineral content, a filter can be an easy fix.

If you still have any concerns about your water quality, contact your local water company to request a copy of the Annual Water Quality Report, also known as the Consumer Confidence Report. Go to https://www.fcwa.org/water/water.htm in Fairfax County.

So, find yourself a water bottle that fits your style… and use it over and over again!

#WaterWednesday

 

America Recycles Day: A Call to Action

America Recycles Day, Keep America Beautiful’s nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling, is November 15 this year. Living in Fairfax County, where we have curbside recycling, it is easy to assume that the U.S. is a leader in recycling. In fact, the U.S. falls behind many other nations, with Americans recycling only 34 percent of all the waste they create, according to a 2013 report from the EPA.

Planet Aid shows here how we compare to other industrialized nations:

recycling_rates_around_the_world-_large_version

Many other countries have developed more successful recycling programs, with Austria at 63% and Germany at 62%, as the world’s leaders.

So, in honor of America Recycles Day, this blog will be highlighting some recycling opportunities in the next few weeks. We definitely have some room for improvement as a nation— and individually.