A very creative team of six students in Michelle Colbert’s Special Education class at Clackamas High School created an educational art piece for our new SOLVE office. Volunteers cleaned up litter from Phillips Creek, which runs by the Clackamas Town Center near the school. Litter that is dropped nearby or blown out of overflowing trash cans washes into Phillips Creek during rain events and can be a real problem for wildlife that call the creek home.
As we all know, every discarded item, no matter the size, must end up somewhere. Often litter ends up in waterways. With assistance from ditches, sewer systems, rivers and other bodies of water, litter can easily traverse across thousands of miles to wash up on your local beach.
Here are the top five litter items found and how they harm wildlife:
#5 Plastic beverage bottles (8.6 percent)
Plastic is lightweight and durable, making it an ideal choice for manufacturing. Put it in water and decomposition time slows down, meaning plastic will be around for a long time — about 450 years — potentially harming marine wildlife. BPA, a chemical compound in plastic bottles that’s linked to health problems in humans, can cause reproductive disorders in shellfish and other species.
#4 Caps and lids (8.9 percent)
Caps and lids are not too large for a number of wildlife species to eat. Birds, like albatross in Hawaii, mistake them for eggs or squid and take them back to the nest.
#3 Food wrappers/containers (9.2 percent)
Both paper and plastic are used in food packaging. They can be mistaken for food and any traces of food on the packaging will attract hungry animals. Choking or blockages can lead to death.
#2 Plastic Bags (11 percent)
Plastic bags may not seem appetizing, but a sea turtle can mistake them for jellyfish. Blockages can occur, causing the turtle to starve to death if they don’t choke first. Other possibilities include animals becoming trapped inside a bag and suffocating or drowning to death.
#1 Cigarettes/cigarette filters (21 percent)
As with land litter, cigarettes/cigarette filters are the most prevalent litter type in water. Not only does wildlife mistakenly eat discarded cigarette parts, they may also be fed to offspring. No nutritional value is obtained from cigarettes, yet wildlife feel full after ingestion. Cigarettes are also highly toxic — as Chris Santiago wrote on the Environment blog, the chemicals in one filtered cigarette butt can kill half the fish living in a one liter container of water.
SOLVE staff handed over 5 full litter bags to science teacher, Rod Shroufe who has been working with us on stream and wetland enhancement projects with his science classes for over a decade. With the project and materials presented to them teachers Rod and Michelle, took the opportunity to collaborate and create a project that would extend the learning of the Special Education students that are otherwise struggling learners. The artwork was completed by Special Education students in a Specially Designed Instruction class to enhance understanding of content presented in Rod Shroufe’s Environmental Science class.
Students came up with the concept completely on their own – four fish created from the trash. We unveiled the artwork at our Open House last Thursday and attendees were amazed! The artwork was the highlight of the event, inspiring many teachers who attended to do similar projects with their own students.
The work will also travel with SOLVE staff as we travel to tabling events, educating the public and volunteers about marine debris and litter in waterways.
THANK YOU Clackamas High School!