St. Paul launches initiative to track plastic, debris in Mississippi River

The City of St. Paul has teamed up with other communities to create the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative.
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Trash along the shore of the Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis. 

Trash along the shore of the Mississippi River in northeast Minneapolis. 

There's a new initiative underway on the Mississippi River aimed at tracking and cleaning up plastic pollution. 

The Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative involves enlisting community volunteers who report trash and pollution via an open-source app called "Marine Debris Tracker."

Doing this helps scientists and leaders better understand plastic pollution and take informed action, a news release from the City of St. Paul says. 

This initiative — the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) — is a partnership between the City of St. Paul and other cities along the Mississippi River, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme, National Geographic Society and the University of Georgia.

“As the capital city in the headwater state of the Mississippi River, we have a responsibility to send clean water to the rest of the country and beyond,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement. “Through the MRCTI Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative, our community can engage in supporting thriving neighborhoods, parks, and waterways while contributing to a national, river-wide initiative.”

St. Paul, along with St. Louis, Missouri, and Baton Rouge, Louisana, will begin the pilot phase of the initiative from April 1-25. All the data that's collected during that time under the MRCTI tab of the Marine Debris Tracker app "will be analyzed to help understand the state of plastic pollution along the Mississippi River."

This pilot will be the first "data snapshot" in an ongoing effort to promote education and outreach about plastics in inland waters, as well as support local data collection events in Mississippi watershed communities. 

“As one of the world’s most vital waterways, it is incumbent on us to pilot efforts that will help ensure that major rivers once again are clean arteries of our oceans,” Colin Wellenkamp, Executive Director of MRCTI said. "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. This is a collaborative effort for each of our cities, including the City of Saint Paul and the 12+ regional partner organizations involved in the effort."

How it works

All you have to do is download the "Marine Debris Tracker" from your smartphone app store (it's available on iPhone and Android phones). Anyone with any experience level is invited to download the app and help track plastics and other trash.

When you download the app, you can track debris under the MRCTI organization or using a different organization. All you have to do is search for the specific item you spotted or select the applicable debris from a list.

marine debris tracker 1

The app uses location data to pinpoint where you spotted the debris.

You can collect data on your own or as part of an organized event. St. Paul is hosting a Citywide Spring Cleanup on April 24 from 9-11:30 a.m.

For more information on the initiative, visit here

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