Goal: Get plastic out of local waterways

There is far too much plastic waste in the Quad Cities rivers and greater efforts need to be made to clean up the waterways.

Those were the main messages delivered recently during kick-off events to usher in the Plastic Free July campaign. Its goal is to get plastic out of local waterways and keep the waste from getting there in the first place.

Kathy Wine
Kathy Wine, executive director of River Action, on left, and Lori O’Dell McCollum, of the Progressive Action for the Common Good, are shown during a news conference Thursday, June 30, in Moline. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

“We have all contributed to a lot of the plastic in the river. … and we are all part of the solution to cleaning it up,” Kathy Wine, executive director of River Action, said during the Thursday, June 30, event at the Riverbend Commons Channel Cat dock in Moline.

That event was held to announce a local joint venture between River Action, MetroLINK and the Waste Commission of Scott County to help remove plastic from waterways. The local efforts are part of the global Plastic Free July campaign to clean up plastic waste.

(Visit Plastic Free July for more on the international efforts and riveraction.org for more on local efforts.)

Part of the local efforts include educating the public on the importance of keeping plastic out of waterways, reducing the use of plastics,  and distributing mesh bags at Channel Cat Talks and the upcoming  2022 Floatzilla on Saturday, Aug. 20. 

Floatzilla is a gathering of kayaks and canoes on the Mississippi River. The mesh bags will be given to members of the public so they can pick up trash while traveling on the river. “While going downstream, keep the river clean” is the slogan printed on the bags and in Floatzilla registration materials.

While cleaning up local rivers is important, it’s also vital to better educate the public to help keep plastics from going into the water in the first place, several officials said during the kick-off event.

The ultimate goal should be to “prevent more and pick up less,” said Megan Fox, communication and human resources manager with the Waste Commission of Scott County.

Ms. Fox added that last October volunteers picked up 24,000 pieces of trash from local rivers. Plastic items made up most of that recovered trash – some 76% of the items removed from the rivers in one month.

And, unless trends and habits change, plastic pollution will likely increase because plastic production continues to increase. Plastic production has gone from 2 million tons in 1950 to 368 million tons in 2019. It is expected to hit 600 million tons by 2025, according  to the Plastic Soup Foundation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to educating people on the dangers of plastic pollution.

But plastic pollution threatens more than the health of the environment. It also threatens human health, according to Lori O’Dell McCollum, a representative of the Progressive Action for the Common Good (PACG), who was also at the Thursday, June 30, event in Moline.

Ms. McCollum and other speakers said plastics never really decompose, but often break down into smaller pieces called microplastics and nanoplastics. These small pieces make their way into the food chain and people eventually consume the plastics.

“We consume about a credit card size worth of plastic every week,” added Ms. McCollum.

“It is projected that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, as 1,500 empty water bottles are thrown into the ocean every second,” according to information from PACG.

In addition, PACG said that part of the solution can be found in local efforts. Some of those efforts include: 

  • The City of Moline is installing bottle filling stations in parks so people don’t throw away their water bottles;
  •  Niabi Zoo has a Plastic Reduction Initiative; 
  • Some Quad Cities restaurants offer compostable straws and take-out containers.

Another big part of the solution will come when the public changes its habits and reduces use of plastics, the group said.

“Most importantly, assess your own plastic use. Invest in reusable alternatives to single-use bags, straws and bottles. Reduce purchases of items with excess plastic packaging,” according to the PACG.

Davenport selected for marine litter pilot project

The city of Davenport is one of three cities in North America selected for a marine litter pilot project.

A trash capture device like this soon will be placed in Quad Cities area creeks. CREDIT OSPREY INITIATIVE

As part of this project, trash capture devices will be installed on Duck, Goose and Silver creeks in the coming days. One such device will be put into Duck Creek at 6 p.m., Thursday, July 7, during the Party in the Park at Marquette Park. The event is open to the public and the Party in the Park begins at 5:30 p.m.

Through the fall, the Osprey Initiative organization will maintain and collect data from the devices located in the three local creeks. The next phases of the project will begin in a few months and will include citizen science activities, community conversations and workshops to raise public awareness on the impacts of land-based sources of litter. 

“In addition to educating the community on the impacts of litter, Davenport hopes to prevent and reduce local litter for the health of our waterways,” Robbin Dunn, communications and preparedness manager for the City of Davenport said in a news release.

As a pilot project and part of regional collaboration, the Waste Commission of Scott County, the Partners of Scott County Watersheds, and the cities of Bettendorf, Moline and Rock Island will be following and supporting the project in various ways.

Davenport has also announced a new web resource, www.davenportiowa.com/litter, which will offer project updates and tips on how to be a part of the solution to litter.

“Awareness of the litter issue has been on the rise over the last few years,” Ms. Dunn said. “We hope to learn a lot from the Marine Litter project and that the experience will result in changing behaviors across Davenport and the Quad City Region for the future of our waterways. Prevention and management of individual and organizational waste is key to reducing litter.”

The litter project is being led by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. It aims to build public awareness about the flow of litter downstream to the ocean by deploying litter capture devices and collecting comparable litter data at three sites: local waterways here in Davenport, Sumidero Canyon National Park near Tuxtla Gutierrez in Mexico, and Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.

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