Why we pick up trash


The Mississippi River, its tributaries, and floodplain support wetlands, forests, grasslands, and farmland, providing habitats and homes to an enormous amount of wildlife. Of America's millions of migratory birds, as much as 60 percent visit the Mississippi River some time during the year making it even more important that we do our part and help clean up the rubbish that litters the riverway.

UMN TRiO group ready to clean up along the River Gorge.

Many plastics degrade and leach toxins into the waters, causing a host of probems for wildlife. Often, fish, turtles, and birds mistake small bits of glittery potato chip bags, bits of straws, and even cigarette butts for food, causing internal damage. They become entangled and killed from fishing line, string, plastic six-pack holders, and even the plastic rings from the tops of plastic pop and water bottles.

Samples of major contributing factors, like anti-freeze, leaves, and litter that have broken down in water. Photo credit: Rich Wahls

Drinking water

The Mississippi River is the Twin Cities' largest contributor to the drinking water supply. Old tires, cigarette butts, plastic bags, and a whole assortment of unsavory items make it more difficult and more expensive for municipal water services to filter pollution here and downstream. They also introduce toxins that we may not be able to remove from our drinking water. The best way to keep both our water supply clean is to remove litter and pollutants from in and along the river to prevent future contamination.

Aesthetics/community quality

When volunteers like you take the time to clean up an area, big or small, you are working to improve the community you live in. Not only is the Mississippi River the home to a diverse range of species and a major source of the community's drinking water, but the great waterway is also a feature for people to enjoy, providing several opportunities for recreation, being a part of our home. As volunteers, your efforts assist in all of these aspects.

Time for a clean up!