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After the "Rockets' Red Glare" Comes the Cleanup

July 3, 2012

AUGUSTA, Maine - After the colorful Fourth of July fireworks have faded from the night sky, they're not really gone, not if you count the leftover plastic that litters beaches, lawns and fields across the state. And one group wants people to think about that this year, and next.

Ellen Anderson with Environmentally Friendly Fireworks says volunteer clean-up crews pick up pounds of plastic for months after the holiday.

"You know, we get however many we can grab the morning after, but the tide takes out a lot of these plastics because they've been shot through the air, from the beach out into the water. So, every month, it's bringing in more of these silly little pieces of plastic that float out on the water."

Anderson says bird sanctuaries are treating more seabirds with problems from eating the plastic.

When purchasing fireworks, she suggests avoiding the aerial or missile styles and also novelty products made to look like tanks, planes and boats, as they tend to contain the most plastic parts. Fireworks sales in Maine are permitted, with a minimum age of 21, although some missiles and rockets are prohibited and some towns have local restrictions.

Anderson says there are ways to minimize the environmental impact of fireworks, but you have to be a smart shopper. Look closely at what's inside the wrapping, and read the label.

"If it says 'battery' on the labeling, you are pretty much guaranteed that, for however many shots there are in that battery - if it's 25 or a hundred - you're going to have that many pieces of plastic."

Anderson also suggests people mention to fireworks vendors that they'd like to see products without plastic. She says one major manufacturer has told her it is developing some, although it may be several years before they're on the market.

More information is at www.plasticsinfireworks.org.

Mark Scheerer/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ME