Peanut the turtle first appeared in the public eye back in 1993, when he washed up in the St. Louis area with a six pack holder stuck around his waist.The image of this rescued turtle served as a stark wake-up call for many who had never thought about the impact that their plastic trash had on the world around them.

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Because of the presence of the six-pack, Peanut’s internal organs became compressed – especially his lungs – and failed to grow in properly. Due to his injuries, Peanut could not be released back into the wild, but was taken in by The Powder Valley Conservation and Nature Center.

Since coming to live at the conservation center, Peanut has become an ambassador for marine animals everywhere. According to Upworthy, Peanut is the “official mascot for Missouri’s Department of Transportation and Department of Conservation’s anti-littering effort, a program called No MOre Trash.” He also has traveled to a number of schools throughout Missouri to teach kids about the impact of plastic trash – something we all desperately need to learn.

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It is estimated that on a global scale, humans dump over 8.8 million tons of plastic trash into the oceans every single year! And all of this waste is having a major impact on marine life. Around 700 marine species are currently threatened with extinction due to plastic pollution. As we can see, poor Peanut is hardly the only animal to experience the ramifications of our plastic obsession.

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It is one thing to hear about environmental problems but without seeing proof, they can be easy to dismiss, which is why the work that Peanut and the Powder Valley Conservation and Nature Center have been doing for the last 22 years is so important. Due to his advanced age, Peanut has since been retired, but his image continues to have an impact.

Peanut turned out to be a lucky little turtle. His picture became an iconic part of the environmental movement, inspiring people to cut six pack holders, clean beaches, recycle and be more mindful of the detrimental effect that plastic is having on our planet. For every one marine animal like Peanut rescued, however, there are countless others adrift, helplessly tangled in plastic, who will die without anyone noticing. By continuing to make conscious choices yourself and raising the awareness of others you too can have a positive impact on the environment.

To learn more about how you can reduce your own plastic use, check out these resources:

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All image source: Missouri Department of Conservation