Every year the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) spends $1 million dollars in litter clean up along rivers, streams and lakes. While there are few people statistically who litter in Missouri, there are still some who do, making littering a lingering problem for the state.
Quite often, trash bags are one of the last things we think to pack for our annual float trips. In fact, sometimes we forget to bring them at all. Or, we make our best effort to collect our trash throughout the day, but then our canoe tips over and our trash scatters all over the river out of arm’s reach.
Fortunately, Missouri state legislators have given float outfitters a way to help keep our rivers, streams and lakes clean. A pilot anti-littering program started in 1999, the “Stash That Trash” program, with its characteristic red mesh bags, gives considerate float outfitters a way to collect trash along Missouri’s rivers and streams. What the MDC has discovered is that kind participants in the program are not only collecting their own trash, they’re also collecting trash others have left behind.
While most of the trash consists of cans and coolers, some loads have included tires, steel traps and even someone’s dentures! Float outfitters pick up tons of trash every year, accounting for 150 pickup truck loads for one river, the Niangua River, alone. If you’re planning a float trip this spring or summer, consider participating in a Stream Team. Nearly 100 float outfitters across Missouri offer float trip discounts for those who participate in clean up efforts. These discounts are extended to Teams renting canoes, willing to perform Stream Team activities like litter pickups and water quality monitoring.
We can solve littering when everyone does their part. Here are some ways we can all make a difference.
First, remove items from your pickup truck’s bed or from your boat that could blow out into roadways. Any lost or broken monofilament should be retrieved as well as plastic six-pack rings. If possible, remember to bring trash bags along on your float trip to dispose of your trash and take them home when your trip has ended. Never throw trash into outdoor privies. Doing so interferes with pumping out the tanks. If you clean the day’s catch near the water, don’t leave fish parts near streams or on boat ramps. Guts and carcasses should be disposed of in trash cans, not along shores, decks or ramps. By exhibiting these practices, you set a good example. Letting friends and family know that littering is socially unacceptable is a powerful step in the fight against future littering.
Littering in Missouri is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by either a 1 year jail sentence or a $1,000 fine. While the MDC has posted signs in all conservation area parking lots, littering still occurs, often when no witnesses are present. Consequently, fines from the small percentage that are caught don’t make up for the money it costs Missouri taxpayers in clean up, finding perpetrators and/or associated court costs.
Stream Teams are a great way to enjoy your next float trip at a discounted rate while still doing your part to keep Missouri’s rivers and streams clean. When it comes to litter, everyone can take part in clean up efforts, keeping waterways clean for future generations.