Bottles, Beer and Dirty Diapers: Litter Leaves Little to Like




That picture above is disgusting.

That picture above comes from within our county (Little Hunting Creek to be specific).

Guess where it goes from here? Storm drains in Fairfax County flow directly to local creeks and streams, then on to the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and then the Atlantic Ocean.

The picture above is just one segment of one stream. Fairfax County has 850 miles of perennial streams.

This means every plastic bottle, gum wrapper, fast food container, soggy newspaper, toy, cigarette butt, and loose piece of trash that gets washed into the drain eventually ends up in a stream. Not only is the sight of floating litter disgusting, it’s unhealthy for the environment. Wildlife can become tangled and entrapped, and some birds and animals may choke or become ill from trying to eat trash.

So what’s been found through the years of various cleanups? Besides the usual trash, here are some unfortunate examples:

  • Muffler
  • Half a mannequin
  • Rubber ducky
  • Rifle
  • Picnic table
  • Bicycles
  • Moonbounce house
  • A lot of beer
  • Bag of dirty diapers
  • Hundreds of pounds of soggy construction material
  • Stove
  • Hello Kitty dolls
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Amplifiers
  • Plastic barrel
  • Fender
  • Composted brassiere
  • Giant plastic crocodile head
  • Oil drums

All this junk was found by volunteers in one creek between 2000 and 2014 during stream cleanup days. Over the years volunteers at Little Hunting Creek have removed nearly nine tons of bulk trash, 8,747 plastic bags, and 1,200 bags of trash.

List of Trash Items Found in One County Creek

Pretty disturbing, right? You can do something about it. Organize or participate in watershed cleanups around the county beginning in April.


litter quote

12 Ways to Prevent Litter

How do we prevent this from happening? There are some easy things you can do starting today.

  1. Secure your trash on collection days by using containers with a lid.
  2. Place heavier recyclables on top of lighter materials in open recycling bins. This will prevent bottles and paper from blowing away.
  3. Wait to place your trash and recycling out until the morning of collection day.
  4. Organize or participate in neighborhood stream cleanups.
  5. Adopt a road and keep it free of litter.
  6. Choose a reusable bottle instead of plastic bottled water.
  7. Choose reusable bags instead of plastic shopping bags.
  8. Report overflowing trash cans and dumpsters.
  9. If you see litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Every bottle, wrapper, and box adds up.
  10. Secure trash and recycling before heavy rain events.
  11. Store trash and recycling away from flood prone areas.
  12. Storm drains are not trash cans. Never throw garbage in them.
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