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We should all do our part with keep beaches clean

Although it should have come as no surprise to anyone, a recent federal study has linked increased beach trash with a decrease in tourist use. Put another way, the more garbage on beaches, the less those beaches — and surrounding businesses — are frequented by visitors.

The study, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted plastic pollution of all sorts and balloon debris have a great impact on Great Lakes tourism.

“Tourism is a major economic sector along the coast,” said Ya’el Seid-Green, a communications and policy specialist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program. “So, the results of this study can inform future cleanup projects.”

Beach trash, according to NOAA, includes plastic, straws, metal, paper, textiles and fishing gear. Bird feathers, campfire litter, microplastics and neglected boats also fall into this category. The researchers interviewed about 1,300 beachgoers and emailed them a follow-up survey.

Although Lake Erie was the focus of the study among the Great Lakes, it’s reasonable to conclude the results can be applied to a broader context. It’s impossible to calculate the total amount of litter in the Great Lakes. But, during 2015 beach cleanups, the Alliance for the Great Lakes reported 46.3 tons of marine debris collected in the region, an astounding amount.

Our advice? That’s easy. Anytime you visit the beach, pick up trash — any trash — that you find. You’ll not only be helping the environment, you’ll be supporting the local economy. Both are good things.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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