Three Mississippi River cities — and hundreds of their residents — have taken a deep dive into tracking plastic and other litter along their waterways.
The Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, led by well-known marine debris researcher and professor Jenna Jambeck, unveiled a report Sept. 15 with results from their pilot project this spring.
Several hundred volunteers in Baton Rouge, La.; St. Louis; and St. Paul, Minn., fanned out over several weeks in March and April, and used the Marine Debris Tracker App, developed by Jambeck's team at the University of Georgia, to record what they found.
Some of it was not a surprise based on other litter surveys: Plastic overall dominated the list, although cigarette butts were the largest number of individual items.
In a media briefing with mayors and officials with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, Jambeck noted the litter contains a lot of PET bottles and aluminum cans, valuable materials that should be easily recycled.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said that 74 percent of what volunteers found in her city was plastic.
At the briefing, officials said they want to expand the effort to other cities.
(Thanks to Assistant Managing Editor Steve Toloken for writing this up.)