Is There Plastic Hiding in Your Leaves?

Posted Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:08


It’s fall! For those of us in the temperate parts of the country, this means temperatures are getting cooler and the leaves are changing color. Those beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves are also starting to fall, covering our yards and sidewalks. Some love crunching through the leaves. For others, it's a big chore to rake all of them up. No matter your view, you should be aware that those leaves can potentially transport debris.  

A pile of leaves.
Can you find all the bits of plastic hiding in this leaf pile? (Photo Credit: NOAA)

When leaves are swept up by city workers or set out on the curb, they are typically headed for municipal compost facilities. During the composting process, the leaves break down, but those bits of plastic debris do not. In fact, more and more municipalities are no longer accepting yard waste in plastic bags for this very reason. Although compost facilities typically sift out any large pieces of plastic, they don’t catch all of it. That means that when this compost is used, those little bits of plastic may be carried by wind and rain into our ocean and Great Lakes.

But don’t let marine debris ruin your fall mood, there are things we can do. If you have a yard and are raking, pick out any plastic debris you might see so you can dispose of it properly. As you are walking around town peeping at the beautiful colors, pick up any plastic on the sidewalk that might get swept up in the leaves. And if you come across an especially jumpable-looking pile of leaves, jump away! But look for bits of plastic as you frolic. Preventing marine debris doesn’t have to be a chore. If we all do our part, we can make a big difference.  

Is There Plastic Hiding in Your Leaves?

Posted Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:08

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For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.


Thu, 10/04/2018 - 11:53

It's really pretty easy to do--especially for the younger set!! I encourage all who can to get out by yourself, with a friend or walking with the kids. If you're lucky you won't see much plastic but in other areas there's more than you'd think and it all really needs to be scooped up. Together we can do this!

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