The City of Suffolk, for the first time, took part in the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy. In Virginia this initiative is coordinated locally through Clean Virginia Waterways based at Longwood University. The initiative is designed to raise awareness about and reduce ocean marine debris. However, it’s more than just a traditional cleanup. It is an effort to understand what type of debris and how much is getting into our waterways. To understand it, a survey must be taken to find out how many tires, plastic bottles and kitchen sinks etc. are found within the area surveyed. This makes this initiative more complicated than your traditional cleanup. As Litter Control Coordinator for the city and veteran Clean the Bay Day Captain I knew that conducting a debris survey of the downtown section of the Nansemond River shoreline in kayaks and canoes would be challenging. Not challenging because it’s mentally complicated, but practically, as it’s not easy cleaning out the wetlands, reaching for plastic bottles, completing a survey whilst trying not to drift or drop something.
So being our first year, and as a seasoned kayaker, I knew it would be literally a juggling act and so I wanted to “get my feet wet” before we really promoted it and recruited volunteers. I registered our cleanup with Clean Virginia Waterways, but I kept it exclusive to people I knew with the goal of getting feedback so that next year when we roll it out to the public it would run smoothly and give us a good foundation to build on year-on-year. As an experienced volunteer coordinator it’s essential that an event runs smoothly and is well-organized. Nothing frustrates a person donating their time more than a poorly organized and executed event.
So what did we learn from our 3 hour pilot effort on a beautiful Saturday morning in October? To do this in canoes and kayaks it takes two people. One person has the litter grabbers and one person with the pencil and clipboard to record the data. I had originally thought that we would do the cleanup and then do the survey by emptying the bags and recording all the debris using the app developed by Ocean Conservancy. However, it quickly became apparent by the rate of bags we were filling that this method would be extremely time consuming and, in addition, I realized there was a lot of larger items we had to leave behind, but needed to include in the survey. The largest of these items was an ice refrigerator like the ones you find outside any gas station. I suspect this came from the gas station washed out by Hurricane Mathew the week before and then marooned in the wetlands.
Having the right equipment is also important. I purchased four sets of six feet long litter grabbers and tested them out during this cleanup and they are great at reaching into the wetlands and grabbing plastic bottles and other types of consumer packaging. I would highly recommend these for this type of a cleanup. It’s also important to have a larger canoe or small boat to go between teams offloading the collected debris, providing supplies and dropping the debris at the collection point.
I’m thankful for having done a test run before actively recruiting volunteers next year. It’s a fun and an educational experience as well as rewarding to be part of an international effort to collect data and contribute to a global picture of what type of debris is finding its way into our oceans. With quantitative data, governments, businesses, non-profits, individuals etc. can begin to address the problem and work towards solutions and hopefully we will see a downward trend in marine debris.
One of the highlights for me was meeting a guy named Bill Farrell. Bill was enjoying a morning stroll by the river as we were in the middle of the cleanup. He shouted out to me “thanks for doing this, I have a kayak, how can I get involved?” so I told him I’m the Litter Control Coordinator in Public Works. Monday morning when I was back in the office he called me and gave me his details and said his wife would like to help as well. I never expected to be recruiting for next year so soon but I’m looking forward to it and making this an annual Suffolk event which will be fun and educational for all.
Every year we have a big Halloween party at our house. We really get into the spirit covering our home in spooky decorations right down to the animated creatures. We have carloads of trick-or-treaters come by the house and enjoy taking our own daughter door-to-door to collect tasty treats. Halloween is such a simple, yet magical holiday.
But the day after Halloween is when things really get scary…
When I wake up on November 1st I feel like I’ve been transported to the Twilight Zone! I look out my window to find candy wrappers littering the sidewalks and streets of my normally tidy neighborhood. It’s a hard truth to admit, but admit it we must:
Our kids are litter bugs.
Yep, I said it. Those darling pumpkins, spooky monsters and sweet storybook characters are responsible for this post-Halloween litter fest. I totally understand the need to power up with a miniature Snickers bar so that you can make it down just one more street. Who doesn’t sample their treasures before they get home? But what’s not cool is letting that little candy wrapper flutter out of your hands and onto the ground. Sure it’s dark and crowded, no one will ever know it was you. And it’s just a tiny thing, surely it won’t matter, right? Wrong! Come morning, the neighborhoods everywhere will be trashy and that’s not a good look, Hampton Roads!
So before your little tykes head out for a night of screeching scares and tasty treats, please have “the talk” with them. Let them know that a candy wrapper does not magically disappear when dropped on the ground. In fact, it could take up to FIVE YEARS for a plastic-coated paper wrapper to decompose. Littered candy wrappers will be washed into a storm drain and out into our local waterways. The fish, crabs and wildlife really don’t appreciate our misplaced trash.
Here are a few tips for a litter-free Halloween:
Consider wrapper-free treats. Gone are the days when you could hand out homemade goodies, but you’d be surprised how excited kids can be over non-candy treats like bracelets, stickers or vampire fangs.
Give a helpful reminder. Help your child and his crew make the right choice by reminding them that trash on the ground means trash in our waterways for up to 5 years.
Give some specific directions. Tell your child to put candy wrappers in his pocket, back into the candy bucket or in a neighborhood trash can.
Hold a post-Halloween cleanup. Make another trip around the neighborhood with your little ones when dawn breaks to collect littered candy wrappers. Make a game out of it and see who can find the most!
A very Happy (but not trashy) Halloween to you all!
By now you’ve probably heard all about the Zika virus. Zika was first launched into the headlines when it was linked with birth defects in newborns. There has been additional scrutiny on the mosquito-borne virus because of the Olympic games in Rio. With athletes and spectators from around the world travelling to Rio, there is real uncertainty surrounding how widely the virus could spread. Recently, Florida reported its first cases of mosquito-borne Zika so now is the time for us all to take action to limit the spread of this nasty virus in our communities.
What can you do? Worldwide health crises don’t usually seem like the kind of thing an average Joe can solve but in this case, we all have the power to stop the spread of Zika by taking action to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. The number one way we can do this is by preventing water from standing in or around our properties. Pools of water in containers around your yard, whether big or small, will provide the habitat needed by mosquitoes to breed. Look around your yard, identify these breeding grounds and correct the issue through tip, toss and cover. Watch this short video below to learn more.
Do you have old tires laying around? That’s a big no-no. Tires catch lots of water and turn into five-star resorts for mosquito breeding. Responsibly dispose of tires by checking our handy tire disposal guide listed by city/county below. Together as a community we can prevent the spread of Zika virus.
Chesapeake Residents may schedule bulk pickup online or by calling 382-2489. Up to two tires (without rims) will be accepted per bulk pickup. Residents may schedule 12 bulk pickups per year.
Gloucester Residents may drop off four tires (off the rim) at any Gloucester County convenience center. For more information, call (804) 693-5370
Hampton Residents may place up to five tires, including rims, at the curb on their regularly scheduled trash collection day. There is a max of 10 tires per household per year. For more information, call (757) 727-8311
Isle of Wight Residents may drop off up to four tires per day at any Isle of Wight County convenience center. For more information, call (757) 365-1658.
James City Residents may use the Jolly Pond and Toano Convenience Centers for disposing of tires. Coupons required. Call 565-0971 for more information.
Newport News Residents who pay the Solid Waste User Fee may drop off four off-rim tires per week to the Recovery Operation Center. Maximum of 12 tires per year. Passenger car and small truck tires only. For more information call 886-7947.
Norfolk Residents may dispose of up to four tires per household per month at no charge. Bulk pickup requests must be placed by 3 p.m. the day before collection. To schedule a bulk pick, please call 664-6510.
Poquoson Tires may be brought to the City’s old Recycling Center which is located behind the Municipal Building next to the pool parking lot. To cover the cost of the disposal of tires there is a $1 per tire fee. Purchase City decals in the Treasurer’s office and affix the decal to each tire prior to disposal.
Portsmouth Residents may place up to 8 tires (without rim) each year at curbside for pickup on scheduled trash pickup days. There are also three Portsmouth Recycles Day events each year where tires are accepted without counting towards the annual maximum. For more information, call 393-8663.
Smithfield Residents may drop off up to four tires per day at any Isle of Wight County convenience center. For more information, call (757) 365-1658.
Southampton Check back soon!
Suffolk Residents may use SPSA or special recycling events for disposing of tires. For pricing on year-round disposal, call SPSA at 961-3668 or find the next free recycling event here.
Virginia Beach Virginia Beach residents can recycle tires via the City Landfill & Resource Recovery Center. Up to four automobile or light truck tires with or without rims can be disposed of free of charge with proof of residency. Only waste generated at the primary residence of City of Virginia Beach citizens will be accepted. Waste must be delivered in a privately owned, non-commercial, vehicle that is no larger than a pickup truck bed. The City of Virginia Beach Landfill & Resource Recovery Center is located at 1989 Jake Sears Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23464. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If you have questions call (757) 385-1980 or email WasteMgt@VBgov.com.
Williamsburg Residents may use the James City County Jolly Pond Convenience Centers for disposing of tires. Coupons are required. Call 565-0971 for more information.
York Residents may bring up to five tires per day to the Waste Management Center for disposal. Fees apply: $1.50/for standard automobile tires without rims; $3.00 if the rim is on. Tires 19.5” or larger are $5.00 (no rim) and $7.50 (on rim). Please call for fees on additional tire sizes, (757) 890-3780.
It’s been one year since the Hampton Roads region began tackling cigarette litter using a consistent message and a proven project model developed by Keep America Beautiful. The “Cigarette Butts = Litter” campaign kicked off in June 2015 at seven diverse locations across Hampton Roads. During the project, local teams and volunteers analyzed their sites, installed cigarette waste receptacles in strategic locations and conducted outreach directly to smokers encouraging them to be mindful of their disposal habits and offering them a pocket ashtray or auto ashtray for the cup holder of their vehicle. Last fall we were excited to report an average 74 percent reduction in cigarette litter at the seven project sites. Today we are again happy to report that our average reduction has stayed nearly the same for over six months since intensive outreach activities ended. The average reduction today is still 69 percent fewer cigarette butts on the ground than before the launch of this effort.
We hope the results of this project will inspire others in the community to fight back against cigarette litter using this proven project model from Keep America Beautiful. The model can be applied to any public space including businesses, parks, entertainment venues and attractions, college campuses and more! Let’s keep up the momentum! Learn more about the KAB Cigarette Litter Prevention program then check out the free Cigarette Butts = Litter outreach resources in the askHRgreen.org Online Media Toolkit!
We are wrapping up the first Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, a group effort between Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to inspire citizens to care for this great natural resource. So many people in Hampton Roads live within the Chesapeake Bay watershed (find your watershed here!) Even those of us who don’t have all the same responsibilities for our respective watershed. We hope this week has served as a reminder to why we care so much about the health of the Chesapeake Bay – and all bodies of water!
The Chesapeake Bay provides some delicious food – fish, oysters, crabs, YUM! Polluted waters mean no food for you.
In addition to the animals we eat, the Chesapeake Bay is home to a huge assortment of wildlife we want to preserve for future generations to come.
The Bay provides tourism dollars for our region which is always good for the locals. You clean up your house for visitors – we must do the same with our Chesapeake Bay.
We’re all part of the same picture. The Chesapeake Bay is a complex ecosystem made up of a huge network of rivers and streams. You might not live right on the water, but you’re connected to it in one way or another so its health directly affects your land.
Doing your part to clean the Chesapeake Bay is simply the right thing to do. Whether it’s picking up trash, reducing your fertilizer use (your lawn is connecting to a body of water even if you can’t see water) or scooping the poop, everyone is capable of doing several small things that add up to something very large.