News & Events

Beyond Litter Cleanups: Reducing Plastic Waste

Author: Anna Chott, East-West Gateway Council of Governments

Efforts around the St. Louis region, such as those led by earthday365, unite local volunteers to clean up litter and illegal dump sites. However, as communities struggle with constantly recurring litter and dumping, they have begun advancing efforts for policy change and elimination of single-use products, starting our region on a path toward a vision where we might no longer need to pick up litter.

According to a 2021 study, the two most-littered items along the Mississippi River in the St. Louis Region are cigarette butts and beverage bottles. Through EPA grant funding, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is leading efforts throughout St. Louis, in collaboration with the community members, City of St. Louis, the Redbud Foundation, and earthday365, reducing the use of disposable beverage bottles by installing water filling stations around town. Marquette Park in the City of St. Louis, for example, currently has no water filling stations or drinking fountains, so people need to bring cases of single use plastic water bottles for their events. So far, the group has identified locations for 5 new filling stations, which could result in preventing 200,000 beverage bottles from littering our waterways annually!

Refilling reusable bottles and containers is gaining popularity as a way to reduce litter, reduce waste sent to landfills, and reduce energy associated with the production and end-of-life processing of single-use products, whether that is by recycling or landfilling. Many storesin the St. Louis area offer an opportunity to eliminate disposable containers by refilling personal containers with everything from personal hygiene products, to cleaning products, to flour and spices, to olive oil and vinegar (as well as a favorite in St. Louis: refillable growlers of beer!). June 16 is World Refill Day, a great opportunity to explore these options.

One of the policy changes proposed due to local cleanup efforts includes Metropolitan Congregations United's call for scrap tire procedure reform, in order to address major issues with illegal dumping of tires. All of these efforts contribute to the collaborative work of organizations to reduce litter in our neighborhoods and waterways.