Setting off and enjoying fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July is a beloved pastime. During this holiday, the skies light up in brilliant colors and designs, leaving us mesmerized and in awe. Whether lighting up sparklers at home or watching a large colorful aerial production, all fireworks leave behind more than memories, they also result in trash.
It is not uncommon to find streets and beaches littered with the remnants of fireworks after the holiday. Pieces of plastic, paper, and cardboard that are not properly disposed of, can easily make their way to the beaches and the ocean to become marine debris. Marine debris is an eyesore along shorelines around the world. It degrades the beauty of beaches and deters tourists and residents from enjoying the beach over the holiday. Leftover trash from fireworks can pose major risks to marine animals when it enters the ocean. Both sea birds and marine animals can mistake debris for food. If ingested, it could result in a loss of nutrition, internal injury, intestinal blockage, starvation, and even death.
There are a number of activities we can all partake in to keep our beaches free of firework debris. Here are just a few:
- If you launch it, pick it up. Cleaning up after ourselves and ensuring we properly dispose of our own fireworks trash is the very first step in addressing this issue.
- Join in on a post-Fourth of July beach cleanup. The monthly NOAA Marine Debris Program newsletter contains cleanup opportunities from across the county. Sign up here to receive the newsletters and find a beach cleanup in your region.
- Spread the word. As the holiday approaches, talk to your friends and neighbors about the potential for firework debris to turn into marine debris.
- Celebrate safely. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to learn how to properly and safely handle and dispose of used fireworks.
By celebrating the Fourth of July and enjoying fireworks responsibly, we can honor our country through protecting our beloved coastal environments, and the marine animals who rely on these habitats.
I saw my first fireworks probably 7 decades ago and have enjoyed them over the years.
But I'm wondering what better way of celebrating the Revolution we can find and use. Picking up the fireworks trash day after day as the tide and surf wash it in turns that wonder into urgent worry. The "bombs bursting in air" did help bring about a new nation, but why celebrate that by killing animals and plants?