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Deck the Halls, Nt the Creeks!

Trashy Creeks

Issue: We all have seen plastic shopping bags hanging from tree branches as if they were ornaments hanging from a Christmas tree. Holiday shopping, gift-giving and family celebrations can generate litter and unnecessary waste, but there are some simple things we can do to prevent holiday pollution.


Fact 1: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated more than one and a half million tons of plastic bags and sacks in 2001; about 100 billion shopping bags, according to the Modern Plastics International Magazine. EPA reports that 99 percent of those plastic bags end up in landfills (or worst, they could end up trashing your local creeks and the environment).

Trash Can

Fact 2: Because of increased consumption of goods during the holidays, it is common to see overfilled garbage cans and litter spilling out onto shopping center parking lots and the streets of our neighborhoods. This litter is carried away by wind or rain directly into our creeks and rivers via storm drains.

Fact 3: Once in the creeks, litter can obstruct the flow of water and cause flooding, can trap and choke wildlife, and destroys the aesthetic value of our neighborhoods and waterways. Local governments are faced with added cleanup costs of maintaining our creeks and streams safe and litter-free. (Click here to see what types of litter may be in our creeks)

Fact 4: According to the National Home Builder's House Price Estimator various amenities such as proximity to water and whether litter is present within 1/2 block of your home can have a significant impact on your property's value.

How long does it take for plastic bags to biodegrade? Click on the photo below to find out.

Trashy Creek

What kind of trash could be floating in our creeks? Click on the photo to find out.

Trashy Creek

How you can help:

  • Keep your storm drain litter free by picking up any stray garbage.
  • Pay extra attention to your trashcans during the holidays. Don’t allow trash to spill out and litter your neighborhood and your local environment. Trashcans, especially those at retail centers, may need to be emptied more frequently this time of year.
  • Recycle your plastic bags. Many grocery stores accept clean, plastic bags. Look for collection bins at the store entrance.
  • Consolidate your purchases. If you are visiting several stores, consider if you really need another bag for a single item. Maybe you can put it in a bag with other items.
  • Purchase canvas shopping bags and take them with you on your next shopping excursion. Affordable canvas bags have the added benefit of being stronger so they won’t rip and cause items to fall out and break.
  • Recycle leftover wrapping paper, gift boxes and cards by reusing them for another occasion. Many cities in our area offer recycling programs that accept paper.
  • By increasing your participation in your city’s recycling program (where available), you will reduce the amount of trash that goes to your local landfill, and most importantly you will help prevent trashy creeks and streams.

Deck the Halls, Not the Creeks!



US. Environmental Protection Agency. Municipal Solid Waste In The United States; 2001 Facts And Figures. EPA/530-R-03-011. October 2003.

NAHB. Average Single Family Detached House Price Estimator, 2004. (

Trade Winds, article by Editorial Staff of Modern Plastics International Magazine, January 1, 2004. (

For the Love of the Lake (White Rock Lake) (

Keep Texas Beautiful: The Lakes and Rivers Cleanup Program (

Newman, T.L., II; Leo, W.M.; and Gaffoglio, R. (2000a) Characterization of Urban-Source Floatables. Collection Systems Wet Weather Pollution Control; Looking into Public, Private and Industrial Issues , May 2000, Rocherster, NY. Water Environment Federation, CD-ROM.

Burton and Pitt, 2002. Stormwater Effects Handbook: A Toolbox for Watershed Managers, Scientists and Engineers. Lewis Publishers, New York

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