The city of Los Angeles spends $36 million annually to maintain storm drains, keep the streets clean, and fund coastal cleanup initiatives. Many other cities in California devote millions of dollars to keeping urban waste from ending up in the state’s rivers and along the coast. But despite the massive amounts of money thrown at the problem, environmental activists and government officials alike are at a loss as to why hundreds of millions are being spent without producing concrete results.

A swan crafts a nest using discarded materials.

A swan crafts a nest using discarded materials.

According to a newly released report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to $500 million is spent by every town, city, and village in California every year to cleanup litter and other debris. Despite this massive infusion of cash, many rivers and waterways are still hazardous environments for marine life. Turtles, fish, and birds are all adversely affected by plastic runoff from urban centers. Discarded fishing gear is an especially problematic form of waste as fishing lines, lures, and nets clog up marine environments. Some lures also include lead sinkers which can easily poison marine life.

The report filed by the NRDC emphasizes the inordinate amount of money being spent by both large and small cities. It provides recommendations to help reign in the state’s ballooning waste management budgets, while at the same time combating urban runoff more effectively. The report calls for creating a comprehensive program that can coordinate the distribution of costs between governments and plastic producers in the state. This approach will help alleviate the costs of cleanup work by providing a broad framework of resources for individual communities to pull from. It also calls for providing financial incentives for companies to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use, one of the largest applications for single-use plastics.

Environmental advocates and state officials alike hope to curb rising cleanup costs while also utilizing more effective waste removal methods. In the meantime, the state has its eyes set on achieving a 75% recycling rate by 2020. If the state manages that lofty goal, it will almost certainly make an impact on its rivers and coasts.

Source: LA Times