Saturday, September 30, 2023

Nonprofit collects 6 tons trash in 2022, receives grant to expand efforts

POP hosts monthly litter cleanups along Highway 421. (Courtesy POP)

WILMINGTON — With a focus on clearing the oceans of plastic and preventing marine debris from entering the waterways, Plastic Ocean Project’s environmental work hit a new milestone in 2022.

It collected six tons of trash in the greater Wilmington area — or 11,780 pounds. As part of its nCino-sponsored Trees4Trash program, one tree can be planted for every 25 pounds of trash collected. In 2022, the nonprofit planted 471 trees.

READ MORE: Local nonprofit adopts portion of Wilmington highway

In 2023, it plans to expand into Brunswick and Pender counties.

The efforts to “collect trash for trees” started three years ago after Hurricane Florence impacted the tree canopy in the region. POP’s goal was to mitigate damage and the increased threat of flooding due to the tree loss.

Since starting the program in 2019, Trees4Trash has removed 24,000 pounds of litter and planted more than 2,000 trees, the latter of which increases CO2, and slows down progression of storms inland and thus decreases destructions of buildings. In 2022, it hosted 50 cleanups with 88,000 volunteer hours culled.

“Trees combat the flow of storm water by helping absorb it and also protect homes by serving as a windbreak,” a release from POP noted. “Floods cause manmade debris to clog storm drains, which leads to the pollution of the ocean, area creeks, rivers and waterways.”

To continue its climate resiliency efforts, POP received a $6,000 grant from Duke Energy, a program that addresses community efforts in a six-state area. The money will expand Trees4Trash efforts into other counties — specifically, Brunswick and Pender to combat litter and its impact on roadways, livestock, waterways and wildlife. 

At the beginning of December, POP adopted 2-miles of U.S. Highway 421 through the statewide Adopt-A-Highway program. Volunteers already have been holding cleanups along the highway for a couple of years, but over the next four will be solely responsible for a stretch of one of the most littered areas due to proximity to the county landfill.

The organization collects items, such as plastic bottles fast food bags, containers, paper and the like, as well as construction debris — metal flashing, lumber pieces, sheetrock panels, and carpet rolls to properly dispose.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, in 2021 over 13 million pounds of litter was collected on statewide roadways. It totaled more than $19 million in litter management, funds that could otherwise go toward pothole corrections, building bridges and improving the transportation system.

Out of 14 divisions statewide, division three — consisting of Brunswick, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Sampson counties — ranks number five with the most litter collected, according to an NCDOT report. It gathered 899,640 pounds and spent more than $1.2 million on cleanup.

Littering is illegal in North Carolina, whether intentional or not. Unintentional littering of 15 pounds or less will result in a $100 fine and up to 12 hours of community service. It increases to $250 to $1,000 in fines and up to 24 hours of community service if cited with intentional littering.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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