By LIZ HARDAWAY

Staff Writer

PORT CHARLOTTE — Everyone’s heard littering is bad.

Yet, somehow, pounds of single-use drink containers, food wrappers and Styrofoam were found on the sides of Veterans Boulevard Saturday morning.

Around 50 volunteers from throughout the region with the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership picked up over 50 bags of trash Saturday during a Pre-Marine Debris Plastic Pickup event. Those bags will be taken to a landfill. Meanwhile, an additional 20 bags of marine debris will be cleaned and attached to an interactive sculpture the group will use at their Nature Festival Nov. 16.

The materials will then be recycled.

“Volunteers learned that it is so important to collect garbage before it enters our waterways and, ultimately, the ocean as well as limit our use of single-use plastics overall,” said CHNEP’s research and outreach manager Nicole Iadevaia.

The group will have another cleanup Saturday, Sept. 21.

Though most of the trash was pretty predictable, there were some oddballs: a toilet seat, a refrigerator door, a shop vac, tires, a mattress and a wreath.

Regardless, none of it should’ve been thrown into the grassy marshes lining Veterans Boulevard.

Here’s why:

1. It’s not just your home.

That small wrapper or cigarette butt lining the highway isn’t just an eyesore. To a bird, that’s food.

It can be a choking hazard and an ingredient for a toxic nest.

“We need to save our animals,” said Brielle Fitton, 10, who went with her mom Allie Fitton to the cleanup Saturday morning.

Even though the World Health Organization says the levels of microplastics in drinking water don’t seem risky, the plastics littered into our waterways can be eaten by bugs, fish, birds and other animals that humans eat.

“It’s part of the ecosystem,” said Sierra Moen, an outreach associate intern with CHNEP.

2. It’s your future.

“I want to make sure my grandkids can come and enjoy (the outdoors),” said Port Charlotte resident Robb Johnson.

Johnson paddled out into Port Charlotte Beach Park’s waterways Saturday with members of the Kayak Club to find trash that had already made it’s way to the water.

“If we all don’t do our part, our kids won’t have a world to live in,” said volunteer Julie Read, who collected a couple of pounds of trash within the first hour of cleaning up Veterans Boulevard.

3. It won’t go away

“Plastic does not decompose,” Moen said. “Every piece of plastic you’ve used has never gone away.”

Plus, “nobody wants to see the community they live in full of trash,” said volunteer Lis Thompson.

Email: Liz.Hardaway@yoursun.com

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