The Impact of Plastics in Our Water from Tennessee to NYC

24 May 2018, 11:32 PM

The world is feeling the impact of plastic pollution. Nashville shares a story about how their local river is suffering from overuse and dumping of plastics.

Sure We Can is a New York City based volunteer led recycling initiative that engages street canners while teaching young people about the impacts of plastics consumption.

Stunning new research shows that plastics are polluting our seas in such volumes that one report predicts plastics will outweigh fish by 2050. The problem is in our rivers as well.

Our awareness of plastics pollution is expanding along with the world. This year's theme for World Environment Day is "Beat Plastic Pollution," and we see why. 

Last summer a German chemistry professor, Andreas Fath, swam the entire length of the Tennessee River testing for pollutants. He hasn't published the results yet, but he informed URI's Nashville Cooperation Circle that Tennessee has a staggering 16,000-18,000 microplastic particles per cubic meter, just in the upper water column.

To put this in context, the Rhine River in Europe, which is longer, more industrialized, and has 10 times as many people living in its drainage basin, tested at just 200 microplastic particles per cubic meter. Even the Yangtze River in China, considered the most plastics-polluted river on earth, has half that concentration.

Dr. Fath speculates that Tennessee’s solid waste practices (e.g., excessive landfilling and littering) may be the main culprit.

For an example of how community recycling is done at its best look to Sure We Can, a New York City based volunteer led recycling initiative that engages street canners while teaching young people about the impacts of plastics consumption.

Cooperation Circles Involved