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Mayors, Scientists, Citizens Along the Mississippi River Work Together to Tackle Plastic Pollution

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Site of first Cleanup

Marine Debris Tracker using app and deploying the GPS Sensor “Bottle Tag” into the Mississippi River.

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative pilot projects launched today in Baton Rouge, the first of three cities along the river. The initiative operates under the leadership of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), the mayors of the Mississippi River in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, National Geographic Societyand the University of Georgia.

The event in Baton Rouge, includes many volunteers, in conjunction with BREC, including Southern University 771 Alliance Sierra Club, Rotary International, and Louisiana State University.

“As one of the world’s most vital waterways, it is incumbent on us to pilot efforts that will help ensure major rivers stop contributing to the plastic pollution of our oceans,” said Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor of Baton Rouge, LA and MRCTI Co-Chair. “Mississippi River Mayors are taking action by mobilizing local communities and working with key partners to deal with single-use plastic pollution to protect our planet and people. Baton Rouge is proud to be the first of these pilot project events.”

Plastic waste that continuously enters the Mississippi River poses a large threat to environmental quality and ecosystem. As the drainage system for 40% of the continental United States, plastic waste and other litter travels through storm drains and smaller waterways into the river and its tributaries, ultimately making way to the Gulf of Mexico and into the ocean.

Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the oceans each year, with rivers contributing to a significant portion of that amount. In 2016, the U.S. generated 42.0Mt of plastic waste, the largest amount of any country in the world, and was the third largest contributor of mismanaged plastic waste to the coastal environment globally. *

“Today is the first of many exciting events along the river, and we applaud the Mayors from along the Mississippi River for tackling the critical challenge of plastic pollution in our rivers and marine environments,” said Barbara Hendrie, Director of UN Environment Programme’s North America Office. “With just 9% of all plastic being recycled globally, we have to work together to address the way we produce, use and dispose of single-use plastic.”

“Citizen science allows us to work together with communities to capture data on what is entering the environment, close to the source,” said Jenna Jambeck, Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia and National Geographic Fellow. “This scale of data collection would be impossible without the participation of thousands of community members along the river to inform upstream solutions to plastic pollution.”

The data collected will generate a critical baseline for decision-makers in both the private and public sectors, against which to judge the success of their efforts to reduce plastic pollution flowing into the river and to inspire effective policy action.

Communities along the length of the Mississippi River have joined the effort to combat plastic pollution. Saint Louis, MO (April 17), and St. Paul, MN (April 24) will host events later this month. Each community has fielded an app, Marine Debris Tracker.

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