Litter doesn't just disappear.
However, the 1,060 volunteers who spread out across the Illinois and Iowa Quad-Cities during the Xstream Cleanup Saturday worked tirelessly to put a dent into the problem.
They filled up 937 trash bags full of cigarette butts, food wrappers, cans and other items. The grabbed 237 tires, 14 appliances, two bicycles, 13 pieces of furniture, 29 televisions and 10 mattresses that careless former owners had tossed away.
"Litterbugs get no love," said 10-year-old Laurel Niemeier as she, her brother Dalton, 11, and parents Marlena and Richard walked through Sunset Park in Rock Island Saturday with large, white trash bags.
Xstream Cleanup, launched by Chad Pregracke's Living Lands and Waters in 2004, is a local effort to clean up creeks, drainage ways and sections of the Mississippi and Rock Rivers across the bi-state Quad-Cities.
During Saturday's cleanup, volunteers picked up litter, removed invasive plants, shrubs and bushes, and did storm-drain markings at 40 sites in Bettendorf, Buffalo, Davenport, LeClaire, McCausland, rural Scott County, Milan, Moline, Rock Island and Silvis.
By the end of the day, volunteers across the Quad-Cities collected 33,209 pounds of litter.
The 150 volunteers at Sunset Park were divided into two groups — light and heavy duty. The “light” groups picked up trash around playgrounds and the edge of the woods.
The “heavy” groups concentrated on the woods and handled tires, appliances and other illegally dumped items at the park.
“Back there (in the woods) is an old abandoned dump that we were looking forward to tackling, but it flooded this year, so we can’t get to it,” said Justin Booker, a site coordinator and board member of Keep Rock Island Beautiful.
This is Booker’s second year as a site coordinator and fifth year picking up trash. He believes that the trash accumulations at the park are not as bad as they were last year.
“Last year along the river, there were liquor bottles everywhere,” he said. “But I look at this year, and it’s not nearly as bad. There are still some things to clean up.”
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Booker said he believes people are becoming more environmentally conscious and are more aware of the impact litter has on the entire ecosystem.
The Neimeiers, in their first year participating in Xstream Cleanup, stuck to the "light" duties at Sunset Park.
Much of what the family collected Saturday were pieces of Styrofoam and small food wrappers.
“I thought we’d find more soda cans and stuff versus what we were finding,” Marlena Niemeier said.
Dalton said he hopes the cleanup will help the environment be less polluted.
Added his dad, “This is going to prolong our environment and make things easier and better for people to enjoy.”