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The Impact of Plastic

Less than 10% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. In 2021, 94% of plastic waste went into our landfills, or ended up as litter on our lands, streets, and waterways. It takes more than 500 years for plastic to degrade. Half of all the plastic ever produced has been made in the last 13 years. If we stay on this pace, we will be producing three times more plastic by 2050 than we are currently. Last October, the Mississippi River City and Town’s Plastic Pollution Initiative found that cigarette butts and plastic waste were the top sources of litter in the Quad Cities. We can do better.

Plastic pollution poses significant risks to all ecosystems, as small particles created when plastic breaks down permeate our food and water, jeopardizing the health of all animals, including humans. It is projected that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans as 1,500 empty plastic water bottles are thrown into the ocean every second. Research shows that we consume the equivalent of a credit card size of plastic (5 grams) every week, and plastic is full of toxic chemicals.

You can learn more about what’s happening locally to reduce plastic pollution. For example, the City of Moline is installing bottle filling stations in their parks; Niabi Zoo has a Plastic Reduction Initiative; and River Action is passing out mesh bags at local events to aid in river clean-ups. Some local restaurants offer both compostable straws and take-out containers. Most importantly, assess your own plastic use. Invest in reusable alternatives to single-use bags, straws and bottles. Reduce purchases of items with excess packaging, and recycle.

Two ways to learn more are online at plasticfreejuly.org and with River Action on the Channel Cat water taxi. Lori McCollum, from Progressive Action for the Common Good will discuss the increasing plastic pollution and contamination of our most important natural resource. Sign up to hear about “Plastic Pollution on the Mighty Mississippi” on July 5th or 7th and receive a free mesh trash bag. Learn about this and all of our summer education talks at riveraction.org/education

For questions, call Virginia Smith at River Action 563-322-2969.