Tennessee Riverkeeper launched a campaign in January to get microplastics out of waterways. The nonprofit organization was founded by David Whiteside and Mark Martin ten years ago.
Today, volunteers with Tennessee Riverkeeper picked up litter around Dry Branch Creek in Decatur, which they say is a collection zone for garbage.
Local environmentalists say that there is an alarming level of microplastics in the Tennessee River. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that have been broken down over time, and the small pieces of litter are harming fish.
Tennessee Riverkeeper Founder, David Whiteside, said, “A lot of these microplastics are not getting filtered out from our water, and the fish are eating them. They’re in the fish, and we know that most Americans have microplastics in their bodies as well.”
Recent studies show that the Tennessee River is polluted with tens of thousands of microplastic particles per cubic meter, and there is no easy fix to this pollution.
Endless bottle caps, straws, and grocery bags were found while volunteers dug through the dirt. Environmentalists say these kinds of single use plastics will outlive the person who used them, and they add to the rate of microplastics entering the water.
Volunteer, Tim Salter, said, “I think the plastic bags are probably what becomes the microplastics the most, because they just shred. You try to pick them up and it just comes up in shreds. You can just imagine all of that just going into the water.”
Whiteside says most of the litter they picked up today comes from people tossing trash out their car windows, and one way to limit the pollution is for people to simply stop littering.