Say a single-use plastic bottle someway becomes litter – Imagine the possible journey of this misplaced item. Best case scenario – you or I are strolling along, see it, and grab it. It gets recycled and perhaps turns up again recycled into a nice fleece vest with a new life. Or if it stays visible until March, maybe a participant of our local effort, Pick Up Boonville, snatches it and sends it to the recycling stream.
If not, perhaps the wind blows it to a storm drain or a river bank, when it rains it could flow into the Missouri River. There is a slight chance someone from the Missouri River Relief effort retrieves it. During their 15th year in 2015, 1508 Volunteers removed 41 tons of trash along 57 miles of the river! One year, after a 600 mile journey, a plastic Sioux Falls, South Dakota restaurant cup was rescued during the Hartsburg Missouri River Relief clean-up effort.
Or perhaps it rains for days either here or up-river, the river rises and deposits the bottle somewhere further inland where it remains for hundreds of years, or perhaps it lands on an island where someone finds it. Or maybe the river rises again and meets it, lodges it out of the mud and sends it further downstream. Maybe a boater will grab it or it could be so full of mud it simply sinks to the bottom of the Missouri River remaining there for hundreds of years. Say it continues floating, and makes it to the Mississippi River. Maybe one of Chad’s Mississippi River Clean Up participant will run across it. (This organization has been picking up now for 25 years!) Or perhaps someone with a river home near Natchez, Mississippi will grab that bottle. If all fails, it could float all the way past New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico and join gravitate to the North Atlantic Gyre, a swirling pool filled with all things plastic. Once there it could find its way to one of the five oceanic gyres – swirling heaps of garbage. If we were on the west side of the Continental Divide, it could make its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the size of Texas!
Then I think back to the beginning of this journey. If we had bottle deposit laws or if that individual used a reusable water bottle instead, the journey would never have begun. So, if you see a discarded plastic water bottle, don’t let it get away – Grab it!