Don’t Let the Litter Linger

The photo above of PPE litter was taken by a 2020 Chicago River Day Summer Challenge volunteer.

With a skyrocketing increase of single-use plastics for takeout food, safe litter collection during the winter season is as important as ever before and maybe more so.

According to a Chicago Sun-Times/ABC 7 news report (Plastic waste problem ‘amplified’ by the pandemic), “Single-use plastics common with takeout food, along with plastic bags — which have seen a resurgence at stores because of COVID-19 — are just one part of the plastic waste problem.  Waste produced by health professionals to keep people safe from the virus — face masks, gloves, plastic gowns, face shields — also is piling up.” The news story also reports that “During the pandemic, consumption of single-use plastics including medical equipment is estimated to have increased by as much as 250% to 300%, according to the International Solid Waste Association.” 

Last January Friends supported a proposed Chicago ordinance by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) that would ban polystyrene containers, require reusable dishes for dining in and mandate recyclable or compostable containers for to-go orders.  It is an ordinance we still support but it is on hold to give restaurants a break during the pandemic and shutdowns.

However, there are still ways to help reduce the amount of garbage that blows into or washes into our waterways, contaminating the river and harming local wildlife. You can pick up litter in your neighborhood, local park, or nearby forest preserve before the snowy weather starts and a deep freeze sets in.  You can start using your reusable bags for grocery shopping again. And while you are supporting your neighborhood restaurants you can help reduce plastic waste by asking them to not use foam containers or to include plastic utensils or other disposables with your orders.

There is always too much trash on the streets once the snow melts in the spring so and if you act now and all winter long, the river will be cleaner and it will be a safer and more beautiful spring.

Check out Friends’ website for more information. A safety protocol from Friends on how to pick up litter safely is available for download in a PDF format.