Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Sara Benson, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI
Marine litter in coastal areas creates environmental, social and aesthetic problems. Environmental effects of marine debris include clogging sewers, choking animals, and killing marine life through the leaching of chemicals. Marine debris can negatively impact humans and the economies of coastal communities. Marine debris found on beaches such as broken glass, medical waste, fishing lines, and syringes can harm visitors. Litter on beaches makes them unattractive and hazardous, deterring visitors from the area, impacting local tourism industries. The coastal communities that rely on income from aesthetics of beaches will have negative impacts to the economy due to the more frequent cleanups and visitors being deterred from the beaches. Litter also increases the total cost of disposal because of the need for more frequent beach cleanups, creating a larger cost to coastal communities. The issues pertaining to marine debris are so expansive it is difficult to assess where to start mitigating the issue. Focusing on beaches is a small, yet significant start to solving the overall marine debris issue. Many turn to beach or ocean cleanups; however, controlling litter before it enters into the marine environment will be more effective than trying to clean it up once it has already been introduced into the ocean. This study is investigating the different trash policies in Rhode Island, such as Carry In/Carry Out or providing trash receptacles, to understand the perceived advantages and disadvantages of different management practices. This information will be helpful for policy-makers or beach managers to better understand the best method of trash disposal on beaches, which will reduce the amount of litter entering the marine environment. With better management practices on beaches, there will be less marine debris, and in turn fewer negative environmental effects. During the summer and early fall of 2016, data is being collected by using flexible semi-structured interviews with town beach managers in Rhode Island. This approach was chosen to get an underlying view of the manager’s perspective on the topic. The themes from the interviews can then be used to summarize the common advantages and disadvantages stated for the certain policy the beach has implemented. From there, the themes will be compared between the differing policies and understand the underlying reasoning for implementing certain policies. By understanding the themes, it will be easier to understand what policies may be better used on Rhode Island town beaches.