Tips for Celebrating the Fourth of July in a COVID-19 Environment

Though celebrations may look different this Fourth of July, it is still possible to have fun and celebrate sustainably.

With the likelihood of increasing personal, smaller fireworks displays following some cancellations of public displays around Independence Day, we are sharing some tips to stay safe while keeping the environment in mind. In fact, litter from fireworks, which contain heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds among other poisonous materials, can pollute the air, water, and soil. Therefore, it is important to take steps to prevent litter when you can and dispose of fireworks waste properly – and safely.

Keep Cass County Beautiful (KCCB) in Nebraska recently launched a campaign ahead of the holiday called “If You Blow It Up, Please Pick It Up!” In a recent article, KCCB Executive Director Linda Behrns shares tips on how to dispose of fireworks:

  1. After completing your fireworks display, wait a minimum of 20 minutes before collecting fireworks waste to ensure there are no burning materials present. If necessary, use some type of light source (flashlight, exterior light, etc.) to illuminate the area so that all fireworks waste can be clearly seen.
  2. All spent fireworks (as well as damaged, misfired or unused fireworks) should be submerged in a bucket or large tub of water for at least 15 minutes or until they are completely saturated.
  3. Seal the saturated fireworks in plastic wrap or a plastic bag.
  4. Place the plastic bag into a trash can (ideally, a metal container).
  5. Make sure to sweep up any remaining fireworks dust and small debris.
  6. Place the material into a plastic bag and discard the bag into a trash can. If possible, keep the trash can containing fireworks waste outside and away from any potential fire hazards until the morning after you complete your fireworks display.
  7. The water used to soak fireworks should then be disposed of indoors down a toilet. Do not pour the water into a yard or down storm drains. Also, do not spray down your driveway/display area with a hose.

We also recommend being courteous when lighting fireworks, such as not lighting them too late at night, especially if you live in a highly-populated area. It’s always advisable to ask permission of your neighbors ahead of time.

As more people seek recreation outdoors at parks, beaches, and trails, we remind everyone to leave no trace and pack it in, pack it out whenever visiting public spaces. Additionally, the Fourth of July falls in the middle of National Clean Beaches Week, which celebrates our beaches and is a great time for all of us to maintain the beauty of waterways and shorelines during holiday festivities. Here are some tips to do your part to keep our environment litter-free for everyone to enjoy:

  1. The Fourth of July is synonymous with trips to the beach and parks – often resulting in littered public spaces. Do your part by cleaning up your picnic or beach spot before you leave. If a public space is busy, chances are the trash and recycling bins may be full. In that case, don’t just pile up your trash leaving it to spill over to the ground. Instead, hold on to your items until you can get to a bin that has room, or bring your items home to dispose of them. One tip is to bring an empty bag for any trash and/or recyclables after use.
  2. Litter is costly to clean up and is harmful to our marine life and environment. Research states that more than 80 percent of marine debris starts on land. To help prevent litter from entering waterways, carry a bag with you when you’re out celebrating, especially at beaches, to collect litter. It’s up to all of us to keep our public spaces clean.
  3. To reduce waste during your picnics and cookouts, use reusable dishes, cups, and silverware. When in public spaces, bring an extra bag or container to store your used items. If single-use is your choice, dispose of these items responsibly and recycle what you can.
  4. If you’re hosting your own patriotic, physically distanced party, set out recycling bins for items, such as plastic beverage containers and cans. Properly label what can be recycled to make recycling easy for your guests. Check ahead of time to learn what you can and can’t recycle locally.
  5. Use decorations you already own instead of buying new items. If you do purchase new items, store them for continued use next year. You can also take items you have at home and upcycle them into something new! For example, you can use empty wine bottles as candle holders or vases for cut flowers for a unique centerpiece.

Whether you’re celebrating at home with family or with a few friends, we advise you to check your state and local health and safety guidelines. There is nothing more patriotic than doing your part to keep your environment clean and your fellow community members safe.

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose unique challenges to us all, we remind everyone to keep trash and litter off the ground. We recommend that individuals exercise physical distancing and wear a face covering when interacting with others, wash hands often, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. In addition, used masks, gloves, and wipes should not be littered under any circumstance and should be disposed of in secure trash containers. These items are not recyclable and should not be placed in recycling collection bins.

With volunteerism at the heart of Keep America Beautiful, you can also consider volunteering with a local affiliate to help keep your community clean, green, and beautiful after the holiday. Several affiliates often host cleanup events on July 5 to pick up the litter and debris left behind by holiday beachgoers. Keep Golden Isles Beautiful in Georgia, for instance, is inviting volunteers to join its inaugural July 5th Beach Sweep cleanup event. In Florida, Keep Panama City Beach Beautiful (KPCBB) plans to host its 3rd annual Robbie Atchinson Beach Cleanup honoring one of its founding members on July 5. Click here to find events near you.

Find more information and tip sheets, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.