NRDC Chart

Charts courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

After assessing 95 communities across California, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) unveiled a report indicating Long Beach is third in the state in money spent per year preventing trash from hitting the beach.

California taxpayers as a whole spend a staggering $428 million per year on the effort, according to the report, with Long Beach shouldering $12,972,007 of the burden. That amount breaks down to around $28 per resident, though it should also be noted that these numbers do not include expenditure at the county and state level, nor do they include waste management or recycling costs.

Multiple factors contribute to the cost of Long Beach’s litter management: waterway and beach clean-ups, street sweeping, storm drain maintenance and stormwater capture devices all total millions of dollars in cost.

“California needs a program to correctly assign the burden of this ever-growing quantity of plastic trash between local governments, taxpayers and plastic producers,” said Serena Ingre, Senior Press Secretary of the NRDC. “This means stopping the problem at its source by reducing the quantity of waste produced, while expanding programs that are working, such as recycling and installation and maintenance of stormwater drain capture devices.”

NRDC PieAccording to the NRDC, most aquatic debris comes from land-based sources that range from littering to extreme natural events. Additionally, current recycling programs can not keep up with the current rate of some 280 million tons of plastic being produced each year.

The implications of this information is two-fold. Environmentally speaking, as plastic enters the ocean, it begins to naturally break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These bits are then ingested by animals, often with deadly consequences that affect hundreds of species. The NRDC noted that aquatic debris has killed or harmed over 700 wildlife species while also threatening human life and health.

Economically speaking, California beaches—largely due to the coastal hospitality and tourism sector—are one the state’s most dependable economic forces, bringing in some $93 billion in 2010 alone. As often happens in Long Beach, following rain or storms, many beaches have warnings about water pollution or are closed entirely.

The City of Long Beach has taken multiple steps that are in alignment with NRDC’s recommendations, notably our city’s ban on plastic bags, which account for the largest and most harmful type of litter. We also have multiple groups which hold large voluntary beach clean-ups, decreasing the City’s manual clean-up costs. Even more, Long Beach is within a county that has a Total Maximum Daily Load Plan, which states that every city which dumps into water sources is required to reduce their discharge by 10% each year.

Map courtesy of Natural Resources Defense Council.

California Pollution in Waterways (August 2013)

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