SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — This time of year we are out enjoying our streams, rivers, and lakes around the Ozarks. If you see a piece of trash while out on the water it could have come from Springfield and could eventually make its way to the Gulf of Mexico. This is why there is a new initiative to try and keep litter from following you along while out on the water.

Every 100-foot section of stream in Springfield has on average 150 pieces of trash in it. That’s about 600,000 pieces of trash in local streams. This is according to a study the City of Springfield conducted in 2019. The most common type of litter found is plastic.

“Within that plastic section we found that a lot of it was single-use food plastics,” said Saki Urushidani, an engineer for the city’s Environmental Services.

South Creek along Sunset Avenue is one of two locations in Springfield where a net has been set up to capture trash.

“They’re a newer technology in terms of stormwater treatment, and we’re still learning about how frequently we need to clean them out,” said Urushidani.

Several factors were considered when it came to choosing the location for these nets such as the size of the pipes and the amount of traffic.

“We’ve seen that there’s a lot of organic debris, so leaves and grass clippings that get captured,” said Urushidani.

Another culprit are cigarette butts.

“I think it’s a common misconception that cigarette butts will eventually degrade but they’re actually full of chemicals and plastic,” said Urushidani.

The World Health Organization reported cigarette butts with filters are the most commonly littered item worldwide. The agency said 4.5 trillion are tossed into the environment each year. That litter ends up in larger bodies of water.

“We can keep our streams clean for us to enjoy,” said Urushidani. “Eventually our streams are someone else’s water source and we need to be aware of our actions and how we affect our neighbors.”