By: Taylor Levesque
One of Pinellas County’s biggest issues is litter. Pinellas County is surrounded by many different bodies of water like lakes, streams, ponds and the biggest one of all, oceans, therefore, water is the number one source of travel for any kind of litter. With the mixture of litter and water, it may bring consequences to life forms. According to Jamie McWade, Program Coordinator for Keep Pinellas Beautiful, “Trash literally travels from our alleys, roadways, yards and parks and is carried by rain to the nearest storm drain. Once the litter reaches the storm drain it is then deposited into the nearest watershed and eventually carried out into the ocean.” What happens to the litter people don’t see or becomes too late to pick up before it ends of somewhere like the ocean or deep in a storm drain where nobody can reach it, let alone see it? According to the Department of Public Safety, last year, United States taxpayers spent nearly $11 billion dollars cleaning up litter across the U.S. which is ten times more than the cost of trash disposal.
St. Petersburg College, Environmental Club, is located on the Seminole Campus, but have other clubs like the Sustainability Club, located on the Tarpon Springs Campus and the Science Adventures Club, located on the Clearwater Campus. “The Environmental Club have hosted awareness on Environmental Issues, guest speakers, documentaries and fun activities such as snorkeling at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Kayaking at Weedon Island,” said Maura Scanlon, club sponsor. An upcoming cleanup event, Seminole Campus Habitat Cleanup, held by the club, is located on the seminole campus, on April 23rd. During the event, the club will be removing litter and planting native plants.
The leading reason of why litter is a major concern is wildlife because it is mistaken for food. For example, plastic bags are mistaken as jellyfish, birds like pelicans mistake small pieces of plastic as plankton. Litter, if ingested, affects wildlife through ingestion, entanglement or contamination. If the animal is not found in enough time, it will result in death. The top seven types of litter, represented on a graph created by Keep Pinellas Beautiful, which pose the greatest threat to wildlife, land and water are; cigarette butts, food wrappers, bottle caps (Plastic), beverage bottles (Plastic), beverage cans, glass pieces (< 2.5 cm), and plastic pieces (< 2.5 cm). According to the Ocean Conservatory’s comprehensive report on Sea Turtles, Birds and Mammals the deadliest trash includes: fishing gear, plastic bags, utensils, balloons, cigarette butts and bottle caps.
Keep Pinellas Beautiful, a non-profit grassroots organization, revolves on litter removal, reduction and education. This organization partners with businesses, schools, community leaders and fellow litter removal organizations to preserve natural spaces throughout Pinellas. They organize different cleanups, such as beach or park cleanups, throughout the county, which are open to anyone in pinellas.
According to the Florida Litter Laws and Fines; Dumping litter is prohibited in or on any public highway, road, street, alley, freshwater lake, river, canal, stream or tidal or coastal water of the state including canals. Fines can range from a $50 penalty all the way to a felony of the third degree for dumping litter.
Asked to spread a message to educate fellow citizens who aren’t aware of litter’s consequences, Jamie McWade, Program Coordinator for Keep Pinellas Beautiful, said, “Florida is a beautifully unique and fragile place and every single one of us has the responsibility to conserve the place we live. Clean communities help to create a type of community pride that has the ability to bring about change and revitalization. We know and understand that change is hard and that everyone has a multitude of other priorities but I want to encourage everyone to make one small change in their daily lives that will aid in the conservation of Florida. Begin by minimizing disposable items, put waste in its place, bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store. Start packing in what you bring out, don’t leave any litter behind in open trash receptacles that are susceptible to wind. Talk about litter, awareness and education create change.”
Help the planet, help the wildlife and help your fellow citizens. Help make the community you live in and the world 7 Billion other people live in beautiful. Find a garbage bin, recycle bin and do your part in helping the planet.
To find out how you can get involved, visit Keep Pinellas Beautiful’s Facebook page.