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Report unveils hidden costs of litter cleanup for Californians

August 28, 2013|By Louis Sahagun
  • California communities spend close to half a billion dollars each year trying to prevent litter from mucking up the sensitive ecosystems of rivers, lakes and coastal waters, a new study finds.
California communities spend close to half a billion dollars each year… (Kathryn Hannay / Natural…)

California communities spend close to half a billion dollars each year trying to prevent litter from mucking up the sensitive ecosystems of rivers, lakes and coastal waters, according to a report to be released  Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Yet, urban runoff remains a serious problem for fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals that ingest it: clogged intestines, restricted movement, suffocation, loss of vital nutrients, starvation.

Then there is the derelict fishing gear -- monofilament line, nets, poles, toxic lead sinkers and plastic lures made to last thousands of years – that can become deadly snares for marine life. Pylons wrapped in fishing line and dangling lures continue to entangle seals and fish, killing them.

“Trash that pollutes our streets, beaches, and waterways, costs local governments and California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” said Leila Monroe, senior attorney in the oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s money down the drain that could otherwise be invested in schools, firefighters, police, or improving public parks and other open spaces.”

The report surveyed 95 California cities and towns and found that regardless of their size and distance from the ocean, they are paying a high price on street sweeping, storm drain maintenance and coastal cleanup efforts.  For example, those annual costs in Los Angeles are
about $36 million; in San Diego about $14 million and in Long Beach $13 million.

The report features an online map of the cities that were surveyed, providing a breakdown of costs, including cost per capita and other information.

The report produced on behalf of the NRDC by Kier Associates argues that California needs a comprehensive program to fairly share the financial and logistical burden of the ever-growing quantity of plastic trash between local governments, taxpayers and plastic producers.

With that goal in mind, NRDC and a growing coalition of waste management, community, environmental, and business groups support creating a new system to address many different types of single-use plastics by creating incentives for industry to use less plastic packaging for
their products, make them recyclable.

Louis.Sahagun@latimes.com

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