How Littering Affects the Pearl River and Honey Island Swamp

Cajun Encounters Tour Company’s owner, Jeff Rogers, grew up on the Pearl River and knows how important it is to take care of the land that takes care of you. Last month, Jeff and his captains took advantage of the slow time due to COVID-19 and spent the day cleaning up the river. They were joined by Jolene Cruzan with the House of Blues Foundation Room.
The Honey Island Swamp is nestled peacefully between U.S. 11, Lake Borgne, the Pearl River, and the West Pearl River. It is one of the most pristine swamps remaining in the United States. The 70,000 acres is home to a variety of wildlife including alligators, wild boars, raccoons, owls, snakes, turtles, nutria, bald eagles, and even back bears. Thousands of people visit the area each year along the Pearl River, hoping to catch a glimpse of an alligator or other elusive form of wildlife. Unfortunately, with people there comes littering.

Littering continues to be a large problem in the Honey Island Swamp and along the Pearl River. From small items, such as bottles and candy wrappers, to large items such as water heaters and tires, the discarded items of someones adventure is a stark reminder of the dangers for wildlife, and the people living along the river. The people who live along the river, and the wildlife who call the swamp home, rely on unpolluted water for survival.

Plastic items that enter the river can have a detrimental effect on the wildlife that live there. If an animal eats even a small piece of plastic, their bodies turn that plastic into harmful toxins. Since so many of the animals in the Pearl River are used for human food (crawfish, fish, alligator, etc.) these toxins are then consumed by people causing illness. Animals are also strangled on a regular bases by discarded six-pack rings, plastic bags, and other plastics.

Littering also consists of improperly discarded food waste and other organic materials. These items can cause increased algae blooms which deplete the oxygen in the water leading to health and safety issues for the wildlife living there. The littering of food and other edible items can lead to more aggressive animals and more animal attacks.

Litter also blocks storm drains and draining systems, which can lead to increased flooding risks in an area already prone to flooding due to naturally occurring weather events such as heavy rains and hurricanes.

As the discarded trash flows down the river what isn’t caught up along the way becomes part of the nine billion tons of litter that ends up in our oceans every year. Have you ever wondered how long it takes this litter to go away? Here’s a general idea.

• Plastic bags- 100-1000 years
• Plastic bottles- over 450 years
• Aluminum cans- 80-200 years
• Glass- glass can take up to a million years to fully decompose.
• Cigarette butts- 10-12 years
• Plywood- 1-3 years
• Painted Wood- 13 years
• Cardboard- 2 months
• Lumber- 10-15 years

We would love to have you come visit our swamp and enjoy the best that nature has to offer. All we ask is that if you pack in in, please pack it out. Help us ensure that the Honey Island Swamp and the Pearl River can be a place for future generations to enjoy.

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