Everyone who enjoys parks, beaches, and public outdoor spaces has a responsibility to keep them clean. Carry out what you carry in!
Everyone who enjoys parks, beaches, and public outdoor spaces has a responsibility to keep them clean. Consistent with this ethic, DEM continues to encourange visitors adhere to the carry-in/carry-out trash policy that has been in effect since 1992.
"The point of our carry-in/carry-out policy is for visitors to take personal responsibility, take their trash with them, and leave no trace behind. We agree with the National Park Service and most state park systems across the country that this is a best practice because it promotes conservation, fosters a sense of stewardship, and leads to better visitor experiences." - DEM Director Janet Coit
Our state's spectacular beaches, parks, and green spaces offer a dazzling diversity of experiences with 8,200 acres of parkland, 1,000 campsites, 400 miles of hiking and biking trails, 200 fishing spots, 25 parks, management areas, and nature preserves, and eight saltwater beaches. They attract more than 9 million Rhode Islanders and tourists a year.
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a non-profit organization that works to educate people on responsible ways to enjoy and experience the outdoors. To do this, they created the Leave No Trace Seven Principles (below) as guidelines you should follow every time you’re out in nature.
More than 1 million patrons visit state beaches between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year, and the sheer volume of customers during peak season inevitably strains services and creates challenges related to trash management. DEM rangers clean up trash on beaches and in the parking lots throughout the day; after hours, DEM beach-cleaning contractors send out crews to pick trash. By the next morning, contractors send other crews out combing the beaches and parking lots along with tractor rakes cleaning up excess litter and seaweed and smoothing the sand for the new day.
The top three categories of trash collected in beach cleanups in Rhode Island in 2018 were plastic and foam pieces less than 2.5 centimeters (so-called "tiny trash"), accounting for 28% of all beach litter; smoking-related litter consisting of cigarette butts, wrappers, and cigar tips constituting 25% of the total trash; and drinking-related trash at 23%, according to Save The Bay. Among the trash collected in the third category were plastic bottles, glass bottles, cans, caps, and plastic straws, lids, and stirrers.
In tandem with Governor Gina M. Raimondo's initiative to invest in and celebrate the state park system, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is working to improve trash and recycling services at state beaches and reduce litter in parks, beaches, and parking areas this summer. Visitors are encouraged to bring waste-free lunches and reusable meal and drink containers to the beach to help reduce the negative impacts of ugly and unsanitary trash on shorelines.
DEM, which supports efforts to reduce plastic pollution, acknowledges that it has work to do reducing its own use of plastics. At state beach entrance booths this summer (except Misquamicut), parking attendants will hand out small trash bags by request only and remind patrons of the carry-in/carry-out policy.
At Misquamicut, the state's biggest and most popular beach, no bags will be available as part of a new approach being tested in collaboration with the Town of Westerly to address the problem of excessive trash left on the beach and in the parking lot. This summer, DEM has positioned dumpsters at every other beach entry point and Westerly is supplying a solar-powered Bigbelly waste recycling system at the pavilion. Misquamicut visitors – 78% of whom are from out-of-state – will have access to these dumpsters to deposit trash and recyclables as they exit the beach and return to their vehicles. DEM has added four seasonal employees at Misquamicut to monitor the containers and collect litter and trash from the parking area and beach. DEM will measure the success of the pilot program through customer surveys and quantitative litter assessments.
"I am very pleased that DEM is implementing this pilot program here at our beach. As the largest state beach, we are excited to partner with the state in tackling this problem and are very grateful to the Governor and Director for listening to our concerns and finding a solution to the problem." - Town Councilor Caswell Cooke, who also heads the Misquamicut Business Association
Show your love for Misquamicut State Beach by doing your part to keep it clean. Dispose of your trash in the receptacles! Taking responsibility for our waste promotes conservation, fosters a sense of stewardship, and leads to better visitor experiences. Keeping our natural spaces clean is up to all of us so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.