Pandemic fallout: Increased litter, waste a threat to High Desert’s watershed – VVdailypress.com


In the past two years, our collective focus has been understanding and surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. But as we move out of the crisis, it is clear that some of the changes we made to protect ourselves are now having an unexpected side effect.

As we all moved to more take-out food and home delivery services, there is simply much more trash blowing around, threatening the quality of our water supply and the health of desert wildlife. Single-use food containers, plastic bags, utensils, cups and more can be seen throughout our High Desert landscape.

You don’t have to look to landfills or the oceans to see the impact COVID-19 has had on our environment. You see it right here in our communities. Look at our sidewalks, gutters, parking lots, or your favorite park, and you are sure to see this take-out trash, not to mention discarded face masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A study published in the Chemical Engineering Journal reported that the shift to online shopping, grocery delivery and takeout orders resulted in a 40% increase in single-use packaging. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that more than eight million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated globally.


When these items are not correctly disposed of, High Desert winds make it easy for them to blow across our open landscape. Just as you have seen this trash around your neighborhood, these items are ending up in our Mojave River Watershed.

These threats to the High Desert environment are real and severe. Restaurants and stores may have all reopened, but take-out and food delivery is still immensely popular. We have an obligation for responsible litter disposal; and all residents should feel empowered to be part of the long-term solution to protect the source of our drinking water. 

Here are some easy ways the Mojave River Watershed Group is hoping you can help. We are an organization committed to protecting the Mojave River, its watershed, plants and wildlife, and the quality of our regularly used High Desert water.

First, reuse items whenever possible. Get back into the habit of bringing a reusable tote with you to grocery and other retail stores. And save money and our water supply by using refillable water bottles to help keep plastics out of the trash cycle.

Second, be diligent about reducing litter that can find its way into the desert and watershed. We all know how windy it is out here, so when out and about, take your food wrappers, drink containers, and other potential litter home with you, so you can dispose of it in your trash or recycling bins.

And speaking of home disposal, securely tie garbage and recycling bags so that loose papers items can’t fall out and become litter.

Third and most of all, reprogram your thinking in a post-COVID world. Avoid single-use, takeout/fast food containers by dining in; your food will be warmer than going through a drive-through or using a delivery service!

Our website at http://mojaveriver.org has many more tips and details about the threats to our water source. We encourage you to make the pledge to protect our watershed and don’t hesitate to pick up and dispose of any wayward trash you see – the water you are protecting is your own.

Now is the time to meet the moment and start prioritizing the future of our Mojave River Watershed. Even small changes you make to fight waste can make a huge difference. Join us in keeping the High Desert beautiful and pollution-free.

Jonathan Dillon facilitates the Mojave River Watershed Group (MRWG), a nonprofit organization comprised of representatives from the City of Victorville, the City of Hesperia, the Town of Apple Valley, and unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County. MRWG is committed to protecting the Mojave River, its watershed, plants and wildlife, and ultimately the High Desert water supply against stormwater pollution.