Trashing Puget Sound: Downtown Field Trip

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 11.57.28 PMThis garbage pile and the litter strewn across several blocks of downtown Seattle was brought to my attention by a concerned citizen who feels his voice isn’t really being heard.

He has written emails and letters to the DOT and municipalities trying to understand who is responsible for cleaning up this mess. Blame is placed on the homeless, but that is just a symptom of a much larger problem.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.00.04 AMOn this day he carried gloves to pick up trash if there were a place to put it, but unfortunately all the  trash receptacle were full to overflowing.  So it’s not like the homeless are throwing litter on the ground as opposed to into a receptacle.  Trash that is left about like this begets more trash.  Studies have shown that people don’t feel the need to clean up if everywhere is a mess already.    But what if we put made sure there were abundant receptacles that were emptied frequently?  Would we see a change?

If the homeless were able to clean up after themselves, perhaps then they wouldn’t be the scapegoat for the discussion with municipalities.  Would we then be able to address the ongoing issue of our porous trash system?  Where garbage readily flies out of garbage trucks driving down the street, where there is no positive norms messaging to encourage ALL of us to bend over and pick up that piece of litter?  Where we act instead of walking on by?

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.01.15 AMWhy am I so interested in this?   Isn’t it a bit off my regular fin beaten path?  Actually no.  Any litter that is small enough to find it’s way down the grates of the storm drain may find itself on the fast track to the bottom of Puget Sound as soon as it rains.

The majority of our storm drains flow untreated directly into local waterways.   Some of this trash (the plastic that floats) is washed up on the beach for groups like Surfriders or other concerned individuals such as Neal Chism to clean up, but the heavy plastics and paper products end up on the bottom of Puget Sound, filling an ever expanding garbage patch that is overflowing depressions in the seafloor and sliding down the slope into what i can only imagine is a massive disgusting underwater landfill at the deepest points in Puget Sound.   On its way down, it ‘flows’ across the shallower regions where it is picked through and eaten by Marine life,  including numerous fish, diving birds and Grey Whales.    By that same token, the ‘floaty’ plastic rises up from the storm drain outfalls and is eaten by large flocks of marine birds before it finds its way either inland to a beach to be cleaned up (or not) or it joins the increasingly prevalent floating plastic that can be readily seen (and cleaned up) on the changing tide when wind and current oppose (the area sometimes known as the Ripline).

There is so much more to be delved into on this subject, but I feel like we need to the discussion somewhere.  So… here we go!  Stay tuned for more!

 

Where it goes…

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