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Stash That Trash!

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Published on: May. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

On a gorgeous day in May, you're floating a sparkling Missouri stream, fishing for smallmouth bass, enjoying the wildlife you see and just generally enjoying yourself. Amid the excitement, you get thirsty and pull a soda from your cooler.

If you rented your canoe from one of the float outfitters that participate in the Stash Your Trash! program, you were probably given a red mesh trash bag.This is the perfect place to put your empty drink containers, and for collecting trash that others have thoughtlessly left behind.

The Missouri Department of Conservation recently began the No MOre Trash! program to help reduce the amount of litter in the state. While the No MOre Trash! program addresses littering in general, Stash Your Trash specifically targets trash on Missouri's streams. It is administered through the Conservation Department's Missouri stream unit and the Stream Team Program.

Long before Stash Your Trash began, a few liveries were providing plastic bags to floaters. In the early 1980s, float outfitters Gene Maggard and Gary Smith, concession specialist Dean Einwalter from the U.S. National Park Service, and two representatives from Anheuser-Busch, Inc., met in Ironton to discuss organizing a stream anti-littering program. Anheuser-Busch donated $5, 000 to start the project.

In 1986, The National Park Service, Anheuser-Busch and the float outfitters on the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers launched Operation Clean Stream, a pilot project to reduce stream litter on a 20-mile section of the Current River, from Akers Ferry to Round Spring. Every canoe livery in the pilot area provided a free, orange nylon mesh trash sack to every rented canoe. During the pilot project, 18 tons of trash was collected, including 1, 100 pounds of aluminum. The aluminum cans were collected from bins and sold by the Three Rivers Handicap Sheltered Workshop in Eminence.

John Hoskins, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, was the Ozark Region Protection Supervisor at that time. He proposed that the Department of Conservation implement the program on the North Fork, Eleven Point, Big Piney, Black, Gasconade and other rivers. Hoskins believed that expanding the program would produce cleaner streams. He believed it would increase public awareness about the need for litter control.

"People go out on the river with the best intentions, " Hoskins said. "They don't want to hurt anything, but they're not prepared. They'll go all day collecting their trash carefully, not throwing anything into the river. But if their canoe turns over, out goes all the trash. They can't get it back."

Hoskins said today's canoeists seem to be more conservation-minded than in the past.

"The Stash Your Trash bags help a great number of considerate people enjoy a day on the river without leaving anything harmful behind, " he said.

In 1987, the Conservation Commission approved a pilot anti-littering program on the Meramec River, Huzzah Creek, Courtois Creek, and Gasconade River. This program was tied to the Conservation Department's 50th Anniversary and ran from April 1 through Labor Day.

In 1997, the Missouri Stream Team Program began buying the bags to give to Stream Teams for their litter pickups. In 1999, the Stream Team Program was given full administrative responsibility for the Stash Your Trash program and its characteristic red mesh bags. It was a perfect fit. They provided the bags to float outfitters who, in turn, encouraged canoeists to use them. Rather than being dumped into streams, trash found its way into bins at takeout points. Much of it was recycled.

Bob Burns operates the Niangua River Oasis near Lebanon. During some of the early clean-ups on the Niangua, Burns said participants brought in tires and even a soda pop machine. Thanks to conscientious floaters, the river is in much better shape now than it was, but Burns said there's still plenty of room for improvement.

"Most of what we see now are cans and coolers, the kind of thing that folks have in their canoes with them, " Burns said.

"Stash Your Trash is a wonderful program, " he said. "Each Saturday we pick up two to three pickup loads of trash that the floaters have picked up along the way. That's between 100 and 150 pick-up loads of trash each year that would otherwise end up in the Niangua River."

Having the bags aboard seems to encourage floaters to look for litter to fill them. Delores Swoboda, operator of Devil's Back Floats on the Bourbeuse River said, "Not only are floaters picking up their own trash, they are picking up trash others have left behind."

Gene Maggard operates the Jacks Fork, Akers Ferry, Round Spring, and Wild River canoe rentals on the Jacks Fork and Current rivers. He said floaters collect tons of trash from these famous rivers every year.

"We've seen everything, " Maggard said, "from tires to steel traps to false teeth!"

Last year, the Stream Team Program provided more than 250, 000 bags to almost 125 float outfitters and hundreds of Stream Teams. These bags helped keep an estimated 1, 000 tons of trash out of Missouri's rivers in 2003, alone.

Next time you are enjoying one of Missouri's beautiful streams, Stash Your Trash in the familiar red mesh bag provided by your outfitter. Make sure you tie the reusable bag to the canoe strut so your trash won't float downstream if you overturn.

THE HIGH COST OF LITTER

by Ginny Wallace

Whether you're hunting, fishing, canoeing or hiking, litter can spoil any outdoor experience.The people of Missouri are having to spend extra time and money to keep from being overwhelmed by litter.

The impact of litter extends beyond what can be measured in dollars. Foam cups and empty cans attract raccoons, opossums, snakes and other wildlife, and some animals get their heads stuck inside. Animals have tangled themselves in the sixpack plastic rings used to hold beverage cans.

Monofilament line is especially dangerous to wildlife. Most monofilament biodegrades very slowly. Because it's thin and often clear, birds and other animals can easily become tangled in it and may become injured, drown or starve to death. When birds use monofilament line in their nests, their chicks may fatally entangle themselves.

Cigarette filters look like cotton, but they are made of cellulose acetate, a long-lasting plastic. Chemicals in cigarette filters, as well as in the tobacco portion of the cigarette, leach into water and are toxic to some aquatic organisms. Because they are small and lightweight, rainwater easily transports the cigarette filters into our rivers, lakes and ponds.

In Missouri, littering is a Class A misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1, 000 and/or a year in jail. At conservation areas, signs posted in every parking lot inform visitors of the fines for littering.In a few areas, glass food and beverage containers are banned.

Conservation agents patrol areas regularly and issue tickets for littering. In 2002, they wrote 261 tickets and recovered more than $14, 000 in fines and court costs. Unfortunately, the fines don't come close to covering the cost of littering to Missouri taxpayers.

The Missouri Department of Transportation spends nearly $6 million each year on litter pick up. Adopt-A-Highway groups contribute about $1 million worth of effort.

In 2002, the departments of Conservation and Transportation teamed up to launch a litter prevention program entitled No MOre Trash! The thrust of the program is to educate people about the destructive impact and high cost of littering.

Littering is a problem we can solve. Here are a few things you can do to make a difference:

  • Remove items from your boat and pickup bed that can blow out onto roadways.
  • Retrieve lost or broken monofilament line and six-pack rings.
  • Take along a trash bag to dispose of your trash, then take it home.
  • Don't throw items in outdoor privies that might interfere with pumping out the tanks.
  • Don't leave fish parts on boat ramps or near streams. If you clean fish near the water, wrap the guts and carcasses and dispose of them in trash containers.
  • When you hunt, pick up spent cartridges.
  • Let your friends know you don't approve of littering--make it socially unacceptable.

For more information on what you can do, visit the No MOre Trash! website.

The Conservation Department purchased 110, 000 trash bags, which Conservation Agents distributed to participating float outfitters. The program worked so well that agents and float outfitters recommended expanding it to include all major float streams in southern Missouri. In 1988, the Stash Your Trash went statewide.

STREAM TEAMS

The Stream Team Program is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Conservation Federation of Missouri. Nearly 50, 000 volunteers are members of 2, 500 Teams in Missouri.

Stream Teams provide an opportunity for everyone to get involved in river conservation. For more information about Missouri's Stream Team program, check out the Stream Team website, send an e-mail to <streamteam@mo.mdc.gov>, or call the Stream Team voice-mail at (800) 781-1989.

More than 100 float outfitters participating in the Stash Your Trash Program offer a discount to Stream Teams.Tese discounts are available to Teams renting canoes to perform Stream Team activities, such as litter pickups and water quality monitoring. A list of these and all canoe liveries can be found on the Missouri Department of Conservation web site through the fishing page.

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