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Monday, April 17, 2017

New environmental group focuses on ridding streams of plastic water bottles

Trash in Accotink Creek. [TAWF]
A new organization, the Northern Virginia Trash Action Work Force, invites the public to a peaceful demonstration to highlight the environmental damage caused by disposable plastic water bottles.

The event, the group’s first civic action, will be May 8, 7-10 a.m., in front of the headquarters of the International Bottled Water Association, at 1700 Diagonal Road, Alexandria. (It’s near the King Street Metro station.)

The Trash Action Work Force hopes the event will draw attention to the significant amount of disposable plastic water bottles that end up in the streams, parks, and streets of Northern Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. According to the Clean Fairfax Council, cleaning up litter costs Virginia taxpayers $5 million annually.

Members of the work force have been leading stream cleanups for many years. “Despite hundreds of volunteers removing thousands of bags of trash from local waterways, the trash just keeps coming back, with disposable water bottles comprising a significant portion,” the group reports. “Trash tossed from car windows or dropped in parking lots, roads, lawns, and parks is eventually washed down storm drains into local streams and ends up in the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and eventually, the Atlantic Ocean.”

The plastic never totally breaks down, killing marine wildlife who try to eat pieces of plastic in the ocean. Litter depresses home values and destroys the scenery in national parks.

The Trash Action Work Force is a coalition of citizens and organizations dedicated to reducing trash in waterways. Organizations include the Friends of Little Hunting Creek, the Friends of Accotink Creek, the Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Friends of Huntley Meadows, the Friends of Lake Accotink Park, and the Great Falls Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is dedicated to promoting the interests of water bottlers through lobbying, advertising, and public affairs campaigns.

While the Trash Action Work Force commends the IBWA’s support of recycling, it disagrees with the association’s opposition to bottle deposit laws and its support for overturning the ban on bottled water sales in national parks.

The work force also urges IBWA – which endorsed the Environmental Protection Agency’s research on water quality – to lobby against efforts to slash funding for the EPA.

The Trash Action Work Force is looking for partners and allies “to join us in standing up for the environment. We encourage citizens, civic organizations, and industrial groups to expand and act on their vision of responsibility for the Earth, our home.”

For more information, contact Betsy Martin,, 703-360-0691.


  1. The water bottles should be banned.

  2. Maybe a better approach would be to explore why people drop the litter in the first place, and what it says about America.

    It's time to ask "Who are the litterbugs?" and "Why are they dropping litter left and right?" Could it be that we have more people who don't own homes and their last "castle" is their car, and heaven forbid ANY piece of trash remains in that castle?

    Could it be that we have allowed a large number of people into Virginia who come from countries where trash piles up everywhere, and so they assume that must be our standard as well? Maybe, maybe not.

    Maybe we've just failed as a nation and simply don't care any more.

    The protest seems like a good idea, but it really just tackles one side of the problem. You take away the supply from the litterbug. But you also have to look at the demand side too. Litterbugs need their sugary drinks, Red Bull, and artesian water, thank you very much!

  3. Statement from IBWA:

    “We commend the Friends of Little Hunting Creek and Friends of Accotink Creek for their efforts to reduce litter in the community,” said IBWA “The bottled water industry has been working hard to educate consumers about the importance of recycling empty bottled water containers. All bottled water containers are 100% recyclable – even the cap. Post consumer PET plastic is easy to recycle and is in high demand by PET reclaimers.”

    IBWA and the groups mentioned above share some important common goals, including promoting recycling and reducing the number of beverage containers (e.g., bottled water, soft drinks, fruit juices, etc.) and other items that end up in the waste stream. However, any actions to address the packaging waste problem must focus on all consumer products and not target just one industry.

    Americans are choosing healthier foods and beverages, and drinking water – tap, bottled, or filtered – should be encouraged. With the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in our on-the-go society, bottled water provides a safe, healthy, convenient choice. Actions that discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public interest.

    IBWA is active in helping improve access to curbside recycling bins through its involvement with The Recycling Partnership. IBWA is also a member of three regional recycling initiatives. IBWA has reached out to the Fairfax County Waste Management Office and Fairfax County Public Schools seeking ways the bottled water industry can work together with them to improve consumer education and recycling.

    The friends of Little Hunting and Accotink creeks support legislation that would impose a 25-cent per container bottle deposit on all beverage products as the solution to the litter problem. However, bottle deposits are not the answer and have several major drawbacks, including:
    - They negatively impact consumers, particularly those who could least afford it, such as the elderly and others on fixed incomes, by increasing the cost of a 24-pack case of bottled water or other beverage by $6.00. This would make it more difficult for people to drink healthy.
    - They create a loss of income for businesses due to increased out-of-state cross-border sales, which would impact state estimates on expected revenue gains.
    - They place an extra burden on consumers to return the empty containers to a retail store or redemption center.
    - They lead to fraud and over redemption, which would further drive up the cost of bottled water for manufacturers and consumers.
    - They do nothing to educate consumers about the importance of recycling.

    Bottled water has the smallest environmental footprint among all packaged beverages and the industry is continually looking for ways to reduce its environmental impact. Some actions include:
    - Lightweighting PET plastic container packaging to reduce overall plastic use. The average weight of a single-serve bottled water PET container has decreased 51% since 2000. With an average weight of just 9.25 grams, bottled water containers use 1/3 the amount of PET used for soda, which requires thicker plastic due to carbonation.
    - Producing YouTube videos and infographics to encourage people to recycle and to understand the importance of recycling.
    - Developing a Material Recovery Program, aimed at increasing the recycling rates for all consumer products.

    It’s important to understand that empty bottled water containers are among hundreds of consumer products that can be mismanaged at the disposal stage. According to Keep America Beautiful, all plastic (includes lids and straws, personal care items & toys) make up 19.3% of all litter in the U.S.

    Littering is a human behavior issue, and we certainly support efforts to help educate consumers about the importance of recycling and respecting their environments.