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Outdoor spring cleaning a shared responsibility

With several recent days in the 30s and 40s, many early signs of spring can be seen in Marquette County and around the Upper Peninsula.

It can be delightful to watch the snow and ice melt away and expose dry ground as the air warms. However, soil and pavement are not the only things that become visible as the snow melts: A quick drive around the Marquette area reveals long-buried plastic bags, cups, wrappers, receipts, cigarette butts and other litter melting out of the ice and snowbanks.

Itís especially troubling to see this occur in our community year after year because litter, animal waste and other contaminants melting out of the snow and ice can impact our water quality.

As the litter and other pollutants melt out of the snow and ice, they can be picked up by flowing snowmelt or rain and carried directly into a body of water or into a storm drain that discharges unfiltered stormwater into a body of water, according to the Clean Water Education Partnershipís website.

Accumulation of litter and contaminants in our waters spells trouble for all forms of life, as poor water quality can impact human health, aquatic life, terrestrial plants and animals, and the ecosystem as a whole.

But any way you look at the situation, that candy bar wrapper melting out of the snowbank isnít staying put.

Itís going to end up somewhere in the environment and thereís a chance it could contaminate water or harm a living creature at some point on its journey.

Due to this, itís critical to avoid littering in the first place and pick up litter this time of year.

Itís important to note that now is not the time to point fingers, place blame, or feel that picking up litter is not your responsibility.

Rather, itís time to recognize that we have a shared responsibility to protect, cherish and respect our communities and the ecosystems they reside in, as we are all in this together.

In light of this, weíd like to share a simple but impactful idea that was posed by an organizer of the Clean U.P. Marquette litter pick-up initiative last spring: If youíre taking a walk, stuff a bag or two in your pocket and pick up the litter you see.

You can even make this into a little game or contest, challenging yourself to see how much you can pick up or how many different types of items you find.

While picking up a few items here and there might not seem like much, it all adds up. One less candy bar wrapper or one less cigarette butt out in the environment can do a world of good.

So when you pick up that piece of litter, think about the journey it could have taken and where it may have ended up if not for your action.

You have the power to make more of a difference for your community and environment than you realize.

— The Mining Journal

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