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Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition Fights Plastic Waste

Plastic pollution has been a widely talked about topic in this country this summer. This summer was the “Summer of the Straw” starting with the European ban on the plastic straw. This sparked movements all over the world to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated and hauled away each year.

While local legislation stands in the way of a ban of the use of plastic bags, cups, and other products local groups like The Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition fight to stop the use of plastics. The Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition is 20 different groups who all come together to make sure local businesses and food establishments are not generating excess waste.

Plastic waste on the ground is not just a problem for the land. The problem then spreads to Tampas beautiful waterways. When waste is littered it is caught in drains or is blown into these bodies. Water pollution does not mean pollutants were necessarily put directly into the water. Plastic littered on the streets can and will often be taken to the sea.

The Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition awards local businesses who ban the use of plastics with their “Ocean Friendly” certification. By doing this they hope to change the pollution issue by making these choices about plastics culture. If people can make habits out of reducing waste the world will begin to see a rapid decline in pollution stats.

“Across Tampa Bay, there are 13 Watergoats, netted buoys that block trash from floating further into waters. In the month of May, each caught an average of 142 pounds of garbage. Here’s the breakdown:

73%: plastic bottles

10%: Styrene containers

5%: plastic cups

4%: aluminum cans

2%: glass bottles”


Sources: Plastic waste inputs from land into ocean, 2015; Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made, 2017; Ocean Conservancy; Watergoat inventor Mark Maksimowicz.

The waste and pollution issues in Tampa reach beyond much further than just the plastic straw or the plastic bottle. It starts with the people and the laws that the people follow. The only way to bust down these issues is to make advances in legislation. Without the laws holding big businesses to strict pollution guidelines, the issues will contain to occur. It’s the decisions and things set in motion today that guarantee a clean and sustainable future for tomorrow.


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From Textiles to Tech: Pittsburgh Green Initiatives

In recent years Pittsburgh has undergone a transformation moving away from textile and manufacturing jobs, and become more focused on technology and innovation. One of the main reasons for this change in identity was to reduce the air pollution and overall amount of trash found on the ground, and to make Pittsburgh a green and vibrant city. Pittsburgh has made great strides in becoming a clean and green city. Pittsburgh progress has not gone unnoticed, in 2008 PIttsburgh was selected to host the G20, due to the fact that had made significant improvement to its air pollution and overall quality of living. Even with these encouraging reports, there is still work that needs to be done.

In a recent survey it was reported that Allegheny County, the county in which PIttsburgh is located, had over 486 illegal dump sites. The location of these dump sites tends to be in close proximity to residential houses and waterways, with ¾ of the dumpsites located near low income or vulnerable groups. The illegal dump sites not only look bad, they also result in reduced home values.


The illegal dumpsite are made of construction debris, yard waste and tires. When all of the junk and trash from 486 dump sites was counted, it weighed a staggering 1,200 tons. The sheer weight of the waste site is cause for concern, not to mention that there were over 20,000 tires in the dumps, that could be reused and repurposed. This problem can be easily resolved with the proper use of trash can and dumpsters. Not only will they keep the street junk free but the trash inside the containers will be collected and taken to the appropriate spot, leaving residents with a clean and beautiful site.

Luckily there are groups willing to combat this issue, such as the Tireless Project. The Tireless Project was found in 2003 to try and reduce the amount of junk and debris from the Pittsburgh riverbanks. They are always looking for people to continue to help them maintain Pittsburgh’s beauty, click here to get more information about the group. A group affiliated with the Tireless project is the Dump Busters. The Dump Busters group is a grassroots organization, that is hoping to encourage local residents to stop being the problem and instead become the solution. The goal of the group is clean up illegal dump sites, with the help of local volunteers. Through their long hours and hard work, the Dump Busters have been able to significantly improve the looks and quality of  Pittsburgh’s rivers.



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Brown Clouds Over Phoenix Caused by Waste

Sometimes you don’t think twice about what you’re tossing in the trash. According to the EPA the average American throws away about 4.4 lbs of trash per day. Wrappers, plastics, and other waste gets disposed into trash bins every day; all to be hauled away and dumped into a landfill.

Arizona State University has conducted many studies analyzing plastic waste production and its effect on the environment. They have discovered that certain plastics and rubbers we come in contact with everyday like contact lenses, plastic wrap, balloons, and even dryer lint can take up to 400 years to degrade.

There truly is only one solution to this and that is to begin to put an emphasis on recycling. If we can make habits out of green practices we can put a large dent in the waste that is created everyday.

Scientists in Phoenix, AZ are hungry to search for a new way to reduce the harmful effects pollution has on their city. Water test samples from a polluted site near 38th St. and Indian School in Phoenix showed high levels of tetrachloroethelene, also known as TCE, pollution. They tried various methods to reach unpolluted levels from the water samples at this site. When traditional vapor extraction methods failed to yield the desired results; a new chemical oxidation injection was tried. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality officials reported the contaminated site was now “cleaned up”.

Pollution of plastics isn’t the only concern in Phoenix. Air pollution is a huge issue in Phoenix. Air pollution is a horrible form of pollution that affects daily life of all people in polluted areas. Phoenix is one of the worst areas for air pollution in the US. The “Brown Cloud” has been over the county since the mid 1990’s. This cloud of pollution is caused by fossil fuels people create using vehicles that burn fuel. The cloud is always growing due to the widespread frivolous use of fossil fuels. The pollution is particularly bad in Arizona due to the climate and geography. The way the desert heats and cools coupled with the wind gust that comes through the valley near Phoenix the “Brown Cloud” forms over the city.

For more information, please visit the links below:


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Cleaning the Filth in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is just like any other city in America or the world for that, in the fact that there is garbage and trash laying around on its streets. However, Philadelphia has the misfortune of being nicknamed “filth-adelphia”. This is due to the fact that it was reported that Philly had 1.5 million tons of waste. Meaning that on average a single resident produces a ton of waste per year. Local residents and city officials are attempting to get rid of the nickname through new citywide litter cleanup initiatives.


The Philadelphia government recently announced an ambitious goal of becoming litter free by 2035. In order to achieve this lofty goal city officials are hoping that Philacycle and Zero Waste Philadelphia, local waste management programs, continue to thrive. Philacycle is a organization that encourages local residents to help reduce the amount of litter and waste on the streets of Philadelphia. The program allows individuals the ability to earn rewards based on how much people help clean up Philadelphia. Feel free to click here to continue reading about Philacycle.


One of the biggest problems that Philadelphia is facing has to do with illegal signs and posters. The Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet of Philadelphia is looking to combat this problem through creating incentives from residents to remove illegal signs. June was the first time that Zero Waste Philadelphia organized a communal street and litter cleanup, with volunteers receiving money for every illegal sign that they removed. If you miss this waste event and are interested in attending future city cleanup events go to the Clean PHL website.


photo courtesy of


The final way that Philadelphia is attempt to limit street side waste is through the use of a litter index. The litter index is used to identify which locations have the most litter. In addition to the index, Philadelphia also analyzed behavioral analysis, to try and understand why  residents put the trash where they do. This information allows city officials to have a better understanding of the issue. With this knowledge, the local government will be able to properly  allocate and use their resources to target areas with the highest amount of litter and garage.


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Orange is the New Green in Omaha

Omaha, like many other big cities, is facing the challenge of limiting what goes into their landfills.  Recycling programs have been in full swing with limited success, and still there is an excess of junk and trash. Unlike many other cities, instead of sitting back and ignoring its waste problems, Omaha has decided to go out and spearhead an innovative solution. Starting in 2016 local communities began using Orange Hefty bags to recycle materials that normally would not allowed to be recycled. To put that into perspective it has been reported that 14 tons of materials  have been kept out of a landfill because of the Orange Hefty bag program. Click here to see which items you can place in the orange bags.


Image courtesy of

Another organization that is striving to clean up the streets of Omaha is Keep Omaha Beautiful. The program is looking to collect types of plastics and other materials that currently are not being collected by the city trash collectors, and having those items get sent to a “cement production plant near Kansas City where the material gets burned in their furnish.” While this solution has a limited effect on air pollution, it does reduce the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills. Any resident who is looking for ways to improve the Omaha community should look no further than this website for more information about future innovative ideas or litter cleanups. Residents are encouraged to help clean up their mess and be part of the waste solution.


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Flashfoodbox: A Better Way to Eat in Detroit

Recently the majority of the media coverage of Michigan has spotlighted the problems that are taking place in Michigan, such as the Flint water crisis or the loss in manufacturing and automobile jobs. However, that does not mean that there are not communities and organizations that are aiming to cleanup its streets and improve the lives of its residents. Tyson Foods has decided to partner with Flashfood Inc. to improve healthy eating by producing and selling healthy food boxes at a modest price. There is a growing problem in America where the food on grocery store shelves that is not eaten or has been bruised will get thrown out of the store. It is a loss of inventory for the grocery stores and their customers.  At the same time, the price for healthy food is continuing to increase forcing low income individuals to have to spend their money on food that lacks the proper nutrients. The repackaged food venture in Detroit, called Flashfoodbox, is attempting to resolve both of these issues through collecting the surplus food from Detroit’s super markets and selling it at an affordable price so that individuals who previously were not able to afford the food now have to opportunity to enjoy a healthy meal.


Image courtesy of

It has been reported that “For $44.99 a box, customers get about 5 pounds of protein, including meat, and nearly 10 pounds of rescued vegetables and fruits, which Flashfood CEO Josh Domingues said could be enough to prepare 14 meals at less than $4 per plate.”  Not only has this partnership worked to help individuals get quality food; it has prevented 15,000 meals from going into landfills. If the consumer has limited transportation options, no problem; the affordable and healthy food boxes can be brought to an individual’s door.  Now that is thinking outside the box!


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Zero Waste Dallas

The city of Dallas, like many other large cities, hopes to eliminate most of its solid waste by 2040. This makes Dallas Texas’ 2nd city to have a zero waste plan. Austin, like Dallas, plans to be recycling 90% of its waste by 2040. Dallas hopes to be recycling 84% of waste by this time as well.  Cities like Dallas making these great plans to do things to recycle solid waste paves the way for other cities to do the same thing. If Dallas can do it, why can’t any American city?

Dallas city council made these plans official August, 22, 2012. The city still has many more steps to implement before they can reach their goal. More and more issues begin to stir each day. Population rises and landfills continue to fill up more and more. This is a problem for Dallas. Government officials need to begin to make these effective steps towards zero waste because the clock is ticking. The plans could include making recycling options more available to city residents. According to the Dallas City Council if all Dallas businesses and residents recycled effectively it would remove roughly 1.7 million of the 2.2 million tons of solid waste sent to the fill each year. Waste starts with the consumer. If the people are informed about recycling, and how and where to properly dispose solid waste, the issue will begin to resolve itself. Before zero waste is achieved many other cities and places have plastic bag, cup, and straw bans. It falls into the lap of people in power to work together with residents and businesses to cut down on waste. Simple legislation like a ban on harmful plastics can truly help a lot.



Dallas leads the country in waste production. This is a serious problem for the future of sustainability in that area. Change can occur and this waste can be redirected, properly, to recycling centers. The use of harmful plastics is a leading cause. Bans on these plastics will put the future of sustainability in the cross-hairs for a big southern city like Dallas. Without the support of the government it is impossible to educate the people on achieving zero waste. We hope to continue to see action and support from the Dallas city council on their zero waste goal.

Local cleanup organization Litter Free Dallas is a group the organizes cleanups around the Dallas area. They offer many different things to the community. Litter free Dallas organizes cleanup volunteers, lends equipment and tools for local cleanup, and even gives citizens a place to report waste law violations. They even provide in Organizations like Litter Free Dallas are instrumental in cities with zero waste initiatives.


For more information on the Dallas Zero Waste initiative and other similar cleanups in Texas please visit:


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Zero Waste Chicago

Zero Waste Chicago has quietly sprung up in Chicago.  In recent years Chicago has seen its fair share of improvements and success stories, such as the Cubs breaking the curse and the Blackhawks winning a few of Stanley cups. However there is an ugly problem that Chicago is facing that no one wants to talk about, the state of it’s rivers. Currently, the rivers of Chicago are constantly getting filled up with trash and tires. This has two major consequences, first it negatively impacts any animal that is living near the river, and secondly, the litter in the river becomes an eyesore. Fortunately, there are several local groups and organizations that are attempting to combat this problem.

Zero Waste Chicago is a grassroots environmental organization who is working with local residents to reduce the about of waste and litter that is left in the streets and rivers of Chicago. This group understands that Chicago has a long way to go to become a clean and green city and is attempting to get community members involved in the cleanup process. Zero Waste Chicago realizes that having multiple small clean up projects can go a long way. If you are a local resident and are interested in volunteering at future events click here to learn more about Zero Waste Chicago.


 photo courtesy of


Another way that Chicago is attempting to clean its rivers, it through the use of two boats. Currently, there are two boats who carry a large net and sift through the water and collect litter and trash from the bottom of the river. On average each of these boats collects 100 yards of waste per year. While the boats clearly do a good job of helping maintain the river ecosystem, it is also important for individuals to do their part and stop throwing waste and tires into the river. Thankfully, that is exactly what people from Chicago are doing. Just in this past year a large volunteer effort to clean up the local rivers had over a thousand individuals participating. To learn more about how you can help clean up Chicago click here.


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Clean It Up Atlanta!

Atlanta, like many other major cities in this country, faces lots of pollution issues. One big issue is waste that people have outside their homes in urban areas. The Clean It Up Atlanta campaign, put on by the department of public works, has tried to identify these most affected areas and urge residents to begin cleaning up debris and waste around their properties. The campaign sends out people from the Solid Waste Education & Code Enforcement Team. The team informs the residents of how their property may be subject to fines due to property code and dumping law violations.

The campaign then holds Amnesty cleanup days around Atlanta. Prior to these days officials educate and inform the people more about how to clean up their waste and get their properties back up to code. They then encourage residents to cleanup and remove debris on those days so Solid Waste Services can come pick up the waste. Any residents still in violation after these days are then subject to fines.

The Clean It Up campaign is in conjunction with the Keep Atlanta Beautiful Commission. the commission focuses on inspiring and educating city residents to take pride in their community. They also aid local cleanup efforts by providing supplies, resources, and support. The Keep Atlanta Beautiful Commission has many different initiatives on how they keep their mission in action. They organize neighborhood cleanups and adopt a spot program. This makes areas concentrated with litter the focus of the cleanup effort. They also have trash can programs where the commission installs and maintains bins around the city.


These initiatives show a lot of promise for Atlanta’s cleanup. What Atlanta has that many other places do not is strong support from the government. All of these initiatives are in association with government agencies and supported with government.


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Ocean Cleanup: Local Efforts to Combat Plastic

Six-Pack Rings and Plastic Straws

Most of us have a general awareness that there are plenty of plastic six-pack rings that wind up in the ocean. In fact, accounts of this particular form of marine litter causing harm to sea-dwelling creatures date back to the late 1970s. Since then, inventions such as photo-degradable and edible six-pack rings have been developed so that we sip a can of soda or beer without killing any sea turtles. Most recently, the plastic straw has become a hot topic of discussion. Seattle has placed a ban on these sipping devices in the wake of a very sad viral video of a struggling sea turtle…with other major cities expected to follow suit.

*Warning: Video contains use of strong language.

While plastic straws make up only about 2,000 tons of the ocean’s plastic waste, they serve as an effective symbol in drawing public attention to the startling magnitude of marine litter that has accumulated.

A Plastic-free Ocean by 2050?

The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization developing exciting new technology to remove plastic from the ocean, estimates that “over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean”. Dutch inventor Boylan Slat founded the Ocean Cleanup at age 18 by developing an incredibly detailed, environmentally conscious, and actually feasible plan to rid the ocean of all plastic by 2050. On their website, The Ocean Cleanup notes that, “Going after it with vessels and nets would be costly, time-consuming, labor-intensive and lead to vast amounts of carbon emission and by-catch”. They describe their solution to this as a “passive system, moving with the currents – just like the plastic – to catch it”. With great excitement and anticipation the group launched its first cleanup system into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a dense monstrosity of marine litter) on September 8th. Visit to stay up to date on their progress and see what they have planned!

Cleaning up the coast from the Boston Harbor to Cape Cod

While large organizations continue to make progress in cleaning up our oceans, many communities are working hard to contribute on a local level. Keep Massachusetts Beautiful, a non-profit aiming to beautify the state of Massachusetts, engages local volunteers in cleaning up debris from the coastline of the Bay State with their COASTSWEEP initiative. COASTSWEEP began in 1987 and grew to over 2,000 participants last year. These volunteers removed 25,389 pounds of debris from 181 miles of waterway in places from the Boston Harbour and the North Shore all the way to Cape Cod. “If you’re like most Massachusetts residents, you probably enjoy visiting our beautiful beaches, bays, and waterfront parks”, writes Douglas Gibbons of the group. “Yet Massachusetts beaches and coastlines are under siege—not by sharks, seals, or lobsters—but by plastic pollution, cigarette butts, fishing gear, and all manner of debris that wash ashore from our cities and towns”. This emphasizes the importance of fighting the battle to attack this issue on all fronts – from the gyres where much of the trash has accumulated, to the shores where it washes back up. If you are in Massachusetts, learn how to get involved in this movement here.

Image courtesy of COASTSWEEP

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