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Cigarette Litter Prevention – One Year Later

Posted on July 8, 2016 by | Comments Off


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 Online Media Toolkit!



Posted in: Beautification, Cigarette Litter, Don't litter!, HR Green campaign updates

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Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week

Posted on June 10, 2016 by | Comments Off

LMinner-GAC_2016_2We 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.

What can you do to help the Chesapeake Bay?

Posted in: Don't litter!, Waterways

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Tackling Restoration Through Beautification in Newport News

Posted on June 7, 2016 by | Comments Off

 The City of Newport News has an integrated program of public awareness and action concerning stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Our programs employ cigarette litter awareness and other forms of litter as outreach and engagement opportunities. The program is a collaboration between various departments including Public Works Resource Recovery, Storm Water Management, Environmental Management System  and Engineering. Litter of any form is an active challenge for our city. We have engaged our citizens, civic and faith-based communities and local business groups in awareness of cigarette litter specifically and litter in general as a stormwater pollution issue. We currently have five separate target areas where Cigarette Litter Prevention Programs in partnership with Keep America Beautiful and are in place and several are set to expand this year. We enjoy great partners in our community who share our passion for stewardship and dedication to maintaining a beautiful and clean Newport News.

DBaxter-WawaAwardRecently, the Newport News Recovery Operations Center recognized the Wawa Convenience Store located at 12093 Jefferson Avenue with the Newport News Clean Business Award winner for the Second Quarter of 2016. This was largely in recognition of their exemplary efforts in litter management and specifically cigarette litter on their very busy property. Their management staff takes great strides to ensure that the facility and property are litter free as they understand how important this is to the businesses remaining viable and attractive for customers. Their diligence and commitment is a fine example of the commitment of the corporate leadership, store management and their dedicated staff to the preservation and protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

DBaxter-NNRainBarrelWorkshopFor the past seven years, Newport News Resource Recovery and Newport News Waterworks have been partnering with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Newport News Master Gardeners to hold Rain Barrel Workshops for residents of Hampton Roads. These workshops empower participants to harness rain water with rain barrels for irrigation and to reduce stormwater runoff from their properties. Hundreds of these rain barrels have been made since the program’s inception saving thousands of gallons of polluted runoff from entering local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. These

The Newport News Resource Recovery, Recovery Operations Center (ROC) , located at 330 Atkinson Way in Newport News, has been a focal point for stewardship and recovery efforts for the residents of Newport News for many years. Recent improvements to the facility include: an integrated household hazardous waste and electronics collection system, white goods recovery and extraction system, tire  recovery program, larger bulk recovery containers for metals and co-mingled recyclables and an improved yard debris collection and management program. Our increase in size and convenience for our solid waste user fee customers has been very effective in reducing landfill costs while improving recycling opportunities for our residents.

The Resource Recovery Center, Recovery Operations Center,  also houses one of the largest compost and mulch production facilities on the Peninsula. Compost is created on-site from leaves and other compostable yard waste and is certified by the US Compost Council and routinely tested by Virginia Tech and Penn State Universities. The compost is a very effective soil amendment, allowing soil to let in more air and water for healthier plants and increased absorption of stormwater runoff. Leaf mulch provides a cost effective soil erosion protection for areas under trees that preserves top soil and helps to reduce soil degradation. The mulch products that are created provide a cost effective beautification product that provides moisture retention and soil erosion protection. All of these products are available to any resident of Hampton Roads at competitive prices, For more information, click here or call 757-886 7947.

Blog post contributed by Daniel A. Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator, NIMS Public Works Blue Team Coordinator for City of Newport News Recovery Operations Center.

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare

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What Does the Chesapeake Bay Mean to You?

Posted on June 4, 2016 by | Comments Off

chesapeake-bay-1310538_960_720Today is Clean the Bay Day and volunteers all over Virginia, from Hampton Roads to Northern Virginia, from the Eastern Shore to the Shenandoah Valley, are working by land and boat to give the Bay a massive spring clean. The short 3 hour statewide cleanup has been held for 28 years and produces noticeable impacts each year. Because of the effort of over 100,000 volunteers, approximately 6.2 million pounds of debris has been removed from nearly 6,500 miles of shoreline since 1989. If you missed this year’s event, mark your calendars for next year but remember that the small choices you make each day are just as important as participating in these annual cleanups. Do your best not to litter and cleanup litter even when it’s not your own mess. If we all did our part, we’d have a much cleaner bay for future generations.

Today also marks the beginning of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, June 4-12. This first annual celebration asks everyone in the Bay states of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania to recognize the massive historic, economic, scientific, and recreational importance of the Chesapeake Bay. Tourists and residents alike are asked to celebrate all that the Bay provides to our region. And the Bay is closer than you may think. No matter where you are in Hampton Roads, it would only take about 15 minutes to walk to a stream, river or body of water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

crab-896481_960_720Here at we’ll be celebrating the Chesapeake Bay by featuring photos of how the Bay gives back to our region and what’s being done in our communities to improve water quality. We welcome everyone to participate by simply sending in a photo with an accompanying message about what the Bay means to you. Photos will be accepted through July 9th.  Please include your  first name, the city/county where you live, and get them over to today!

Posted in: Community events, Don't litter!, Waterways

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Microplastics – Tiny Ninjas of the Waterways

Posted on June 1, 2016 by | Comments Off

Microplastics on a penny.  (Source:  5 Gyres)

Microplastics on a penny (source: 5 Gyres).

Let’s talk microplastics.  You’ve probably heard the buzz about microbeads by now, the tiny pieces of plastic that can be found in exfoliating facial scrubs, toothpaste, and other personal care products we use every day.  It’s been a hot topic since the White house passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which phases out the use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic products beginning in 2017.  So what’s wrong with microbeads?  Why must we scrub ourselves instead of relying on the power of convenient little plastic balls to do all the work?  I did some research and asked my co-worker Chris Burbage, an Environmental Scientist at HRSD, to give me the low-down on microplastics and explain why these tiny things are such a big threat.

 First, some definitions.  Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in size that start out in different forms.  Some microplastics start out as microbeads in our personal care products, but others were previously microfibers in textiles, scrubbers used for industrial cleaning, or pellets used as the raw material for all types of plastic products.  Others are simply larger pieces of plastic that have broken down into smaller pieces.   The problem with microplastics is they end up in our waterways where they become marine debris (AKA litter).  Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?  You might be visualizing a pile of floating trash but most of this “patch” is made up of microplastics under the surface. Even microplastics washed down the drain in your toothpaste or from your laundry can make it out in the environment because wastewater treatment plants are not designed to capture these tiny beads and fibers.  It’s not as obvious as a disposable water bottle floating in a river, but it’s still litter and 4 things make these petite plastics particularly nasty once they reach the water: 

  1. Plastic degrades slowly.
  2. They can release contaminants into water.
  3. Contaminants in polluted water can attach to them.
  4. Some of them look just like fish food. 

Plastic eaten by a fish (source: 5 Gyres).

Plastic eaten by a fish (source: 5 Gyres).

So along comes Mr. Fish and he gobbles up what he believes to be a tasty meal but what are actually chemical-laden microbeads.  Sounds bad for the fish, but it could also be bad for anyone who eats him, because some of these chemicals can build up in animals along the food chain.   If you are the seafood loving type, this bioaccumulation could potentially land a nice little cocktail of chemicals on your dinner plate.  In the case of microbeads it was an easy call – keep them out of products – which is exactly why the Microbead-Free Waters Act sailed through Congress.  Threat neutralized.  Kind of.

This Act addresses microbeads in rinse-off products, but what about the other sources of microplastics?  Some are tiny fibers that come off our clothes in the washing machine.  They are too small to see but in some marine environments they are more abundant than larger plastic litter. These fibers can also work their way up the food chain, but how do you stop invisible-clothing-fiber-pollution?  I was happy to give up personal products with microbeads, but now my athletic wear is a problem?!  Check your closet for synthetic materials like polyester, polyester = plastic!  When is the last time you steam cleaned your carpet?  Carpet fibers = microplastics full of those lovely carpet chemicals.  Down the drain they go and like little ninjas they sneak right past even the best of us.

You can read a summary of what we know and don’t know about microplastics in our region in the recent Technical Review of  Microbeads/Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s STAC.  Or you can just go by my Cliffsnotes version, which boils down to:  Microplastics are not a threat to our drinking water because our drinking water is cleaned using methods that can filter out extremely small particles; however, microplastics are in waterways here in Hampton Roads and they are found in aquatic animals that we eat, like oysters and fish.  We still need to find out how much is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, how they are impacting the environment, and how they are impacting our health.

While scientists work to answer these questions and we wait for microbeads to be removed from the shelves, we can reduce the amount of microplastics out there by keeping our communities free of plastic litter and limiting microbead use in our own homes.  You won’t find “microbeads” in any ingredient list (that would make it too easy), but there are still a few tricks you can use:

  1. Avoid products containing “polyethylene” and “polypropylene”, which are both types of plastic.
  2. Use an App to check products on the go, like Plastic Soup Foundation’s Beat the Microbead.
  3. Go straight to the source and buy from a local small business that values sustainability, like Chesapeake-based Roses Ridge Farm (one of my faves).  You’ll be supporting an environmentally responsible business and your community.
  4. Make your own personal care products.  Head to Pinterest and you’ll find all kinds of recipes from scrubs to toothpaste

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Going Green, Household tips, Waterways

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