Sunday, September 2, 2012

Where Does Litter Come From?

By now you've most likely heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and you might know that there are four other large plastic collecting gyres across the world's oceans.


What we've learned during our time spent picking it up is that, while a small percentage comes from intentional dumping and littering, the vast majority comes from people just like us and you. We mean well; we separate trash from compost & recycling, plastic from glass and paper, and put it out on the curb just like every other well intentioned, unassuming person out there.

But that's not where our trash and recycling story ends. It's estimated that less than 10% of plastic is actually recycled in the US.

That's assuming it even makes it to the recycling center. We've discovered something in our trashpeditions; If it floats or blows, it winds up in the river. If it ends up in the river, it will eventually make it to sea, and that's where the problem lies.


*Trashco's area code is 503 if you'd like to let them know what you think of their work. That's (503) 232-4084. Give Trashco a ring or call the city of Portland, Oregon at (503)823-CODE (2633) to lodge your complaint. Be sure and tell them Team OSOM sent you.

It's likely that every one of those people who's trash is scattered on the ground believed that when they put it out on the curb, it would be properly disposed of and plastic, glass, and cardboard would be recycled. Instead what you see is litter scattered everywhere, sadly within feet of the dumpsters.

This location is surrounded by storm drains that run directly into the Willamette river only 400 yards to the West.

The Willamette river joins the Columbia river just a few miles downstream. 80 miles West of the confluence, the Columbia flows into the Pacific Ocean, carrying thousands of pounds of litter and plastic debris to sea each year.

Yes, that's a hypodermic needle you see in this drain. It was actually one of two found, along with two credit cards and a pair of shoes among countless cigarette butts and plastic bits and pieces.


Don't buy it in the first place.  Support the companies who reduce or eliminate their plastic packaging, and find alternatives to single use plastics. They are a consumer convenience that cause more harm than good. There is an equally good, reusable alternative to just about every item you can imagine. A quick google search of the item in question with the word "reusable" in front of it will yield several results.

Every time you purchase an item, you're voting with your dollars. Are you going to vote for single use plastic and ocean garbage patches? Or are you going to vote for companies offering alternatives? In a free market economy, businesses produce what consumers demand. If enough of us support the companies making a difference rather than those contributing to the problem, we'll be making progress. The change is already happening, and your actions as an individual have a major impact on the speed of progress across the globe.


  1. Love it, It's great to see people who really understand this problem of plastic pollution. Brilliant work, now for the really fun stuff of changing how the world uses plastic!
    -Paul, Two Hands Project

  2. yeet i will litter even more now