Does a little litter really matter?
Except for an occasional bit of rain – needed for gardens and lawns – we’ve been having some lovely boating weather and picture-perfect settings.
However, there are many coves and beaches marred by trash. It may not seem like a big deal to toss over an empty soda can. After all, it will sink, won’t it, and soon be gone? Actually, no.
An aluminum can takes 50 years to decompose, and it can wash up on a beach well before that. How about just a light empty plastic water bottle? Well, that hangs around for 450 years. We don’t want trash to be the legacy of our generation when our distant descendants are digging up artifacts.
Trash is more than just unsightly. Every year Rhode Island harbor seals are found with plastic six-pack holders around their necks, strangling them as they grow, with a painful death that would have been avoided if people just put their plastic in a trash bag. This happens with other marine birds and mammals that get beaks, muzzles, or flippers tangled in monofilament line, which floats around posing a threat to animals - and to your propeller - for 600 years. Even small items like cigarette butts get consumed and block the digestive system, killing the animal. Over one million cigarette butts were picked up off beaches in one year in the US. Plastic shopping bags are a problem too. They look like jellyfish in the water and are consumed by marine organisms filling the stomach, and the creature cannot eat. Not only a problem for marine animals, plastic bags can clog seawater intakes and cause you problems too.
So what can you toss overboard in the bay? Nothing! Not a banana peel, not a cardboard juice box. Nothing you wouldn’t throw on your kitchen floor.
If you had room for something going out to your destination, then you have room to bring it back as well. Bring trash bags and more reusable bottles and use the recycling bins at your marina. Make sure to acquaint your children and your guests about the laws for solid waste and debris. You are required to have a MARPOL (Marine Pollution) sticker posted – on your wastebasket is a good place.
Participate in waterfront clean-ups advertised in the paper or call the Center for Marine Conservation at 1-800-CMC-Beach for information. It’s important to teach your kids that they have a part in the responsibility to keep our bay clean. This is a great way to give back to the environment.
Let’s make boating safe for our families and also the marine organisms. After all, at the beach or on the water, we are guests in their world.