Earth Month: A Focus on Litter and Local Action Steps We Can All Take

By the Bronxville Green Committee

April 5, 2023: On Saturday morning, April 15th, Bronxville Middle School students will partner with the Bronxville Green Committee for a litter clean-up event in the Village’s central business district.  Working in teams of four, members of the Character & Community group will fan out to gather trash and any recyclables they can salvage. What a great way to kick off our honor of Earth Day on April 22nd!

Litter is not just an eyesore but also an environmental hazard—all those cigarette butts, take-away and beverage containers, discarded personal protective equipment (PPE), food and candy wrappers, plastic cups and bottles, and other improperly discarded solid waste material pollute our soil, water, and air, threatening public health, property values, and our shared ecosystem.

Litter is costly as well as dangerous--according to the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful, litter abatement costs local and state governments $1.3 billion each year. Bronxville’s Department of Public Works (DPW) spends considerable time and money each year cleaning out catch basins and storm drains where litter collects and prevents the Village’s storm sewer system from redirecting water off the streets. 

Why Litter is Dangerous

What happens to the nearly 50 billion pieces of litter dropped on American roadways and waterways each year? Often wind, inclement weather, traffic, and animals transport it into gutters, yards, parks, treetops, and eventually local waterways and the ocean.\

Because microorganisms do not consume and digest plastic, as they do organic material such as plants and animals, plastic merely disintegrates, releasing toxic chemicals in the process.  It remains in the environment as microplastics, which are now found all over the globe and in every human body, with unknown health and environmental consequences.

Plastic trash is also deadly to wildlife. When cigarette butts—the most common form of litter--degrade, they release poisons such as arsenic and formaldehyde. Cigarette filters, made from a plastic called cellulose acetate, are often eaten by animals or fish. The Sea Turtle Conservancy cites a UNESCO study stating that more than a million marine creatures die each year as a result of plastic debris in the ocean.

Litter gets in our local waterways too. The Bronx River Alliance has to date collected from in and around the Bronx River more than 200,000 items of trash weighing more than 7 tons. And in the last five years, 53,692 pieces of trash were removed from the Bronx River by Westchester Parks Foundation volunteers.

Here’s what can you do:

Dispose of trash responsibly. When you see that a street trash bin is full, carry your trash to the next receptacle or take it home for proper disposal. To prevent trash and recycling from escaping from bins on collection day, be sure to keep lids tightly closed and, when possible, wait and put the bins outside just before pickup. If you smoke, please dispose of your cigarette butts responsibility and don’t throw them on the ground.

Pick up litter.  It’s in everyone’s best interest to remove visible trash. Are you a member of a local organization that might organize clean-up events or “adopt” an area where you patrol regularly to pick up litter? Can you gather an informal group of friends to become a “litter squad” or “green angels”? Or simply make a habit of picking up litter wherever you go. Free kits that include grabbers, liners, work gloves, scales, and reflective vests are available to those who sign up on the Keep America Beautiful Volunteer Portal.

Hold family members accountable. We all need reminders that our actions have far-reaching consequences, and that there are good reasons to make the extra effort to dispose of trash properly.

By doing our part, we honor and support the invaluable contribution of Bronxville’s DPW, whose staff works hard to remove trash, collect recyclables, and transport yard waste to where it can be composted.

Lastly, Support Extended Producer Responsibility Legislation. Consider writing to State Senator Shelley Mayer in support of Bill Number S1185C, which would establish an extended producer responsibility program for paper and packaging with the goal of creating a circular economy for recycling. Find details on the NY Senate webpage.

Inevitably, litter will follow wherever humans go.  But we can take steps to keep it to a minimum. Let’s be part of the solution and not the pollution by following the good example set by the Middle School Character & Community group!


The Bronxville Green Committee is a volunteer organization that is part of the Village of Bronxville. We work to propose and implement environmentally sustainable programs in our community. Visit our website and follow us on Instagram @bxvgreencommittee to learn more. Please consider joining our efforts.


Sustainable Living Directory

The Bronxville Green Committee

The Bronxville Green Committee is a volunteer organization under Village government.  We work with the Trustees and Village staff on programs that promote clean energy initiatives and sustainable ways of living. Our programs include The Bronxville Giving Garden, a community garden whose produce is donated to local groups; Take Back Day, when we collect items to be recycled; and Pollinator Pathways, which encourages adding native plants to our gardens. We believe everyone can make a difference by adopting simple, sustainable practices in daily life so we can work together to protect what we love -- our families, our homes and our town.

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