Do your part in fight against litter

Published 5:49 pm Monday, May 30, 2016

For most of us, it’s difficult to imagine the mindset of a human being who litters.

Humans embrace environmentalism to varying extents. Some drive hybrid vehicles, eschew plastic bags, grow their own food and abstain from purchasing from certain companies they believe are harming the environment.

Many of us take simpler steps, like turning off the lights when they’re not needed or turning off the water when brushing teeth or shaving.

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But perhaps the easiest thing to do to protect the environment is actually something we need only avoid doing — littering.

Litter is a serious problem in Hampton Roads, as the numbers from last year’s Clean the Bay Day illustrate. More than 6,000 volunteers removed about 110,000 pounds of litter from 450 miles of shoreline.

These tons of trash have a severe effect on nature wherever they are found. Litter is unsightly. Chemicals from some litter can harm plants, animals and the quality of our air and water. Animals — from aquatic crustaceans to the largest mammals — can get sick or die from litter in a number of ways, including choking if they try to eat it or getting tangled in it and becoming unable to move.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people do the right thing. They reuse or recycle those items they can and dispose of the rest in the proper receptacles. They would never dream of tossing trash onto the ground wherever they may happen to be finished with it or dumping large items they no longer want in out-of-the-way locations just because they can get away with it.

But unfortunately, inconsiderate people do exist, and it takes a small army to clean up their mess.

In addition to ongoing efforts, the annual Clean the Bay Day brings together thousands of local volunteers to clean up litter in their communities, especially along our region’s waterways.

Suffolk’s participation is important because the city has a large amount of watershed, where even trash thrown on dry ground is likely to eventually make it to a creek or river and then to the bay.

The annual effort is coming up this Saturday. Adults and children are welcome to volunteer, but some sites are restricted to adults and responsible older teens due to the challenging terrain.

The sites open to children and adults include Sleepy Hole Park, Bennett’s Creek Park and Seaboard Coastline Trail.

Adult volunteers only are requested for Constant’s Wharf Park and Coulbourn Park.

Lake Meade Park also is a site for the project, but it is already full of volunteers.

Boaters with kayaks, canoes and any shallow water boat are needed to collect trash by water. Larger boats are helpful as collection points for smaller boats.

Advance registration is required so volunteers can be assigned to a site. Register or get more information at

Everyone is needed to do his or her part. Even if you can’t participate this Saturday, grab a trash bag and do it when you can, where you can. Litter happens one piece at a time, so every contribution helps.