Prove your humanity

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.


While beach towns in New Jersey and Delaware work to curb the use of plastic straws, bags, containers, and even balloons, researchers say it appears the real problem lies upstream in cities and towns far from lapping ocean waves.

Kelly O’Day is a retired wastewater engineer who has devoted his free time to battling litter in Philadelphia. At a storm water inlet on the corner of West Loudon and North 7th streets in North Philadelphia, he points to plastic trash that has accumulated by the metal grate.

“When you get enough flow of water, that plastic bottle will make its way … to the storm water inlet,” O’Day says.

When it rains, water washes down the street, pushing plastics and other trash into the storm water drain. Those openings on the curb were designed to capture rain water and prevent flooding, not serve as public trash cans. But researchers say more and more trash is making its way from those drains to the ocean.

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