Getting to a Plastic Free Watershed? Leave No Trace

Conservation // July 23, 2020

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without plastic. Since it was first created 150 years ago, we’ve appreciated its convenience and depended on it, but it’s become increasingly clear that our plastic use is a global problem that affects everyone. All over the world, single-use plastics, such as water bottles, straws, and bags are used for mere minutes before being thrown away, and due to improper waste management, littering, and stormwater runoff, plastic ends up in our environment and travels through local waterways to the sea. Frighteningly, it’s estimated that by 2050 plastic will outweigh fish in the worlds’ oceans, and between entanglement, ingestion, and ecosystem damage plastic pollution is already impacting hundreds of species.

It’s time to act against this emerging threat to our water quality, wildlife habitat, food sources, public health, and economy, by a reimagining the way we consume and use plastics. We’re in the middle of Plastic Free July, a month-long global challenge to reduce their use – and while the problem is big, solutions start small on an individual level – with you!

 Here are some great resources on what you can do to decrease our reliance on plastic and fight plastic pollution:

#1. Reduce, reuse and recycle. 

At the store? Skip the bottled water, and buy dry goods in bulk to avoid packaging. Bring a cloth reusable bag (or two!) instead of getting single-use plastic bags for your grocery purchases! At home, try to reuse plastic containers and forego disposable tableware. And finally, make sure you know which kinds of plastics can be recycled – and that they get in the recycling! More useful tips to make an individual difference from the Academy of Natural Sciences here.

#2. Stop single-use plastics with bag bans.

Not using single-use plastics on an individual level is great, but the next step is making a change with businesses and municipalities! Reaching out to your local grocery store or small business and asking them what steps they’re taking to reduce single-use plastics is a great place to start – and stores ranging from Weaver’s Way Co-op to Wegmans have made commitments to eliminating single use plastics. 

Municipal plastic bag bans are also a powerful tool to stop pollution at the source. Philadelphia still has to implement its plastic bag ban, and many neighboring towns and cities still need to pass one. You can go even further toward making a change by contacting your elected representatives and urging them to support legislation that will move us away from harmful single-use plastics.  Learn how to meet with legislators and get all the tools you need in this Plastic Advocacy & Messaging Guide from Delaware River Coalition!  

#3. Clean up your watershed. 

Once plastic pollution gets into watersheds, it takes dedicated people to get it out – and right now, we need you to help out yours! On your next visit to Wissahickon Valley Park, plan on putting in in a couple minutes of trash pickup to leave the park nicer than how you found it. You’ll need gloves, a trash bag, and a trash picker if you have one, and you can get your family and friends involved in collecting trash too! Remember to report the number of volunteer hours of trash pickup you did in the park at FOW’s individual stewardship page. Lastly, make sure you’re following Leave No Trace principles on your trip – especially bringing out everything you bring into the park.

We all benefit from eliminating plastic from our waterways, and if we work together, we can make the Wissahickon a #PlasticFreeWatershed. Let’s start today!