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July 18. 2011 6:35PM

Beach litter: Our trashy culture

The State of New Hampshire spends $53,800 to clean up the litter left on Hampton Beach, which means it costs more to scrape the trash off that one beach for four months than the average New Hamsphire teacher earns in a year.

What can be done? Not much, we suspect. We have become a culture that litters — with exceptions. Have you ever noticed that Hampton Beach is vastly more littered than New Hampshire’s other state parks? People don’t leave anywhere near that much trash on Mount Monadnock, which is reportedly the third-most hiked mountain in the world. That probably has to do with the respect for nature that is a trait of so many hikers. Not all of us participate in the litter culture.

But it also must be related to the nature of the visit. One does not typically bring a huge bag of snacks and toys on a hike. One brings that to a state park campsite, but one doesn’t leave it because campsites are reserved by name, so there is accountability. At the beach, there is none.

Allowing police to ticket litterbugs, as the state recently did, ought to help. But reducing beach litter will take carrots as well as sticks. A lot of people don’t want to lug their trash across the beach to the sidewalk trash bins, which often are full anyway. More convenient disposal options would not solve the problem (we’ll always have litterbugs at a public beach), but they would help.


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