Waterkeeper Cleanup Clears Nearly 100k Pounds of Trash from U.S. Waterways

In September, we asked Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates across the United States to participate in a collective cleanup push. Many Waterkeeper groups use September as a prime time for an end-of-the-season cleanup, as a last chance to clear our waterways of trash and debris while everyone is still enjoying good weather and the great outdoors. And because National Cleanup Day is celebrated in September (this year it was on the 15th).

All told, 25 Waterkeepers in 14 states galvanized just shy of 6,500 volunteers to pull 95,002 pounds of trash out of creeks, rivers, lakes, and bays across the country. It was an impressive cleanup sweep that saw more than 900 volunteer hours invested for the betterment of our waterways. There were plenty of recyclable materials collected as well as your typical cleanup trash (think tires, shopping carts, cigarette butts, and bikes—even a headless duck statue!).

“Waterkeepers working in 14 different states throughout the regions face threats as diverse as their watersheds. From coastal beach sweeps to cleanups on canals, swamps, and streams, efforts to curb litter and remove waste from our waterways are one thing we have in common and that we excel at,” said Elena Richards of Savannah Riverkeeper. “Coordinating this work in a unified effort gives a broader audience to Waterkeepers and Affiliates who are making a huge difference in our communities and highlights the strength this movement has when we work collectively.”

Most alarming to Waterkeepers who routinely host cleanup events is how year after year they go back to the same places and find the same amount of trash. Much of which is waste material that could very well be repurposed in a number of ways and through numerous recycling and reclaiming channels.

“For me, being somewhat isolated out here in Missouri, it was cool to see the local impact of the cleanup efforts and then imagine the collective impact of that across the region and the whole U.S.,” said Missouri Confluence Waterkeeper Rachel Bartels.

What that collective impact looks like can be seen here on our infographic showing the results of the cleanups that occurred during the time period. 

April O’Leary of Winyah Rivers Foundation, which is home to two Waterkeeper Organizations (Waccamaw Riverkeeper and Lumber Riverkeeper) reflected on a season of cleanups, “I love working together with other River Rats tackling the waste in our waterways and I really feel like collectively we do make a difference. I would encourage to get people out there and enjoy our rivers and see how clean they are!”


Check out highlights from the season below:

Feature image by Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

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