Buena Vista University student Shannon Carroll has transformed her passion for the environment into a project that focuses on preventing garbage accumulation and bringing greater awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the “Garbage Patch,” lies within the North Pacific Ocean and is characterized by high concentrations of plastic and other debris that have been trapped by a high-pressure system of oceanic currents in the North Pacific Gyre. Primary sources of this debris include cruise ships and coastal towns along the waters off Japan and North America.
“We need to all be aware of pollution and the effects it has on our environment,” says Shannon, a junior human services major from Marshalltown who is attending BVU’s Marshalltown Graduate & Professional Studies site. “The garbage in our streams flows into our rivers, which may then end up in our oceans.”
In June, Shannon organized the first “Ex-Stream Clean: The Great Garbage Patch Prevention” volunteer event at Timber Creek Park in Marshalltown. Among the debris recovered from the creek were nine shopping carts, two car batteries, five bikes and 14 bags of garbage.
Shannon’s idea to organize the Ex-Stream Clean event stemmed from a project assigned in her BVU University Seminar course. “I am knowledgeable about the Great Garbage Patch, and I didn’t think a lot of people had been educated on where the trash they throw away ultimately ends up,” she says. “I wanted to bring awareness to the effects this has on us and our environment.”
“The Great Garbage Patch spot collects trash from many regions of the world,” adds Shannon. “Right now it is estimated that the Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas. Many birds, turtles and fish are eating broken down plastic mistaking it for food. Besides killing wildlife, the plastic and other debris in the Garbage Patch damage boats, litter beaches, and harm commercial fisheries. This affects all of us.”
Future goals of the Ex-Stream Clean project include educating individuals about the Garbage Patch and the effects of pollution on the environment, says Shannon. She also hopes to expand the project locally and eventually statewide through brochures, t-shirt handouts and by speaking at schools and community events.
Shannon is also working on organizing other Ex-Stream Clean events scheduled for Aug. 25 at Timber Creek and Sept. 15 at Lynn Creek in Marshalltown.
“I believe this cause is important because it is helping to keep our environment safe,” says Shannon. “With proper education, this could be a cause we all believe in.”