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 released recently 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 and starvation.
Then there is the derelict fishing gear — monofilament line, nets, poles, toxic lead sinkers and plastic lures that can 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 for street sweeping, storm drain maintenance and coastal cleanup efforts. For example, those annual costs are about $36 million in Los Angeles, about $14 million in San Diego and $13 million in Long Beach.
The report features an online map of the cities surveyed, providing a breakdown of costs, including cost per capita and other information.