Plastic from Eagle County can make its way into oceans | VailDaily.com

Plastic from Eagle County can make its way into oceans

Stephen Beane
Sustainability Tip
The 25th annual Eagle River Watershed Council river cleanup on Saturday will involve community members cleaning over 68 miles of Eagle County rivers and streams.
Justin Q. McCarty | Daily file photo

Did you know that 80% of ocean plastic comes from land-based sources? Eagle County is far away from an ocean, but the trash we make here can make it all the way to an ocean. A study done by Eunomia Research & Consulting reports that more than 80% of the annual input of plastic litter, such as drink bottles and plastic packing, comes from land-based sources. Litter follows water, and heavy rains wash trash into rivers and storm drains, which eventually make their way to the ocean. Therefore, local litter does not stay local for very long and ends up having a serious global impact.

Our litter washes downstream, but before it does, it negatively impacts our communities’ economy and environment. Keep America Beautiful performed a litter cost study and found that the U.S. spends $11.5 billion a year in clean up costs, with businesses paying $9.1 billion. The study also found that litter in a community decreases property values 7% on average. The Eagle Valley’s economy relies heavily on tourism and no one comes to Vail to see trash on the ground, and litter contaminates local soil and waterways. For example, cigarette butts are the most commonly found piece of litter. Cigarette filters are made of acetate (plastic), which take years to break down and release toxic chemicals into water and soil. They can also have harmful effects and make it into the food chain when ingested by wildlife.

We all love to play in our mountains, rivers and streams during the summer, but all that love comes with a price. That’s why the Eagle River Watershed Council is preparing for its 25th annual river cleanup event, in which more than 350 volunteers show their dedication to our valley by forming teams to clean up more than 68 miles of Eagle County rivers and streams.

Afterward, the volunteers are invited to a free thank-you barbecue with great food, local beer, live music and a raffle. Registration is needed, as volunteers meet on or close to the river at assigned locations. Call the Eagle River Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 or email Kate Isaacson at issacson@erwc.org to sign up. Think globally and act locally, it’s our responsibility to keep the trash where we created it.

Eagle River Watershed Council is preparing for its 25th annual river cleanup event, in which more than 350 volunteers show their dedication to our valley by forming teams to clean up more than 68 miles of Eagle County rivers and streams.

Three tips to help

1. Pack it in, pack it out: When you’re enjoying the river or the mountain, make sure whatever you bring out there comes home with you. Always pack out your trash and dispose of it responsibly.

2. Be a role-model: Picking up at least one piece of random litter a day adds up and also influences others to do the same.

3. Volunteer for the Eagle River Cleanup: Help protect our waterways by signing up with the Eagle River Watershed Council and participating in this fun and rewarding event.

Stephen Beane is the Actively Green intern for Walking Mountains Science Center’s sustainability programs. He can be reached at stephenb@walkingmountains.org.