by Hannah Seligmann, Volunteer Coordinator
Since 1989, Potomac Cleanup volunteers have been leading the way to a healthier river. This year, nearly 10,000 volunteers took to the outdoors, organized, picked up trash, and recorded and submitted important data about what they found. We wanted to highlight some of the most interesting finds and best quotes from the 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.
The Potomac Cleanup is often led by returning volunteers. For the folks in the Pohick Creek watershed, the Cleanup is something of a tradition. They’ve been participating in the event for more than a decade!
“Every year our [cleanup] site gets better and better!”
– Pohick Creek Cleanup, Mount Vernon District
For some, this April was their first cleanup. HGA Architects and Engineers can see the Potomac River from their office, along with the trash that’s accumulating.
“I’ve been dreaming about this [cleanup] ever since we first saw the trash.”
– Ethan Fogle
Ethan went above and beyond and purchased a pool net to be able to capture the trash that was out of reach in the water. It was a huge success! Add a pool net to your tips and tricks for on the water cleanups!
If you read our recent blog, Usual Suspects, you know there is no limit to what volunteers might find. Some of our most interesting finds this year were: a glass pepsi bottle from 1950, a grill, wake board, coffee maker, soccer cleats, rusted out antique washing machine, wallet (turned in), plastic Easter eggs, violin case, beautiful hand knit Nordic sweater, a vacuum. Did we mention the plastic hippo?
Aside from the fun in the interesting finds, volunteers keep track of the plastic bags they find and sort between trash and recycling.
“We observed a decrease in bottle and can litter this year, but a dramatic increase in plastic waste, particularly plastic sacs from retailers. We’re all in favor of banning these plastic sacs.”
– Tripps Run cleanup with the Sleepy Hollow Citizens Association
“Almost everything we picked up was a plastic of some type. Few grocery store ones – mostly newspaper bags, produce bags, packaging material and a surprising amount of caution tape.”
– Little Falls Stream Valley Park, upper section
During April, we did an intensive cleanup and sorting project with North Point High School and explorer and environmentalist John Cousteau. In 20 minutes, we found and properly disposed of 78 food wrappers, 2 cans, 27 bottle caps, 7 plastic Easter eggs, 2 batteries, 6 plastic bottles, 4 plastic lids, 1 glass beer bottle, 1 blanket, 2 plastic utensils, 1 random small metal piece, 13 straws. Piece by piece, litter adds up.
“The 2017 in 2017 challenge was a success! We wanted to collect 2,017 water bottles for 2017 and we exceeded this goal.”
– Senior Green Team Cleanup
at John E. Howard Community Center
We were inspired by the enthusiasm of the volunteers at the Greenbelt Earth Day Watershed Cleanup who said, “It’s like saving the world”, “This is the best day ever!” and “Small individual actions lead to big community impacts.”
And the volunteers were not afraid to dream big:
“Thirty years from now, we will probably say ‘Remember when people used to use plastic?’”
– Jefferson County, WV
The benefits of the Potomac Cleanup go beyond the ecological improvements.
“Loved getting outside and working with neighbors to help clean the community.”
– Little Hunting Creek Cleanup
“Visitors to the Canal thanked the volunteers for what they were doing as they came in contact with us.”
– Lock 27, Mouth of the Monocacy
And we hope to continue to see comments like the one from Piscataway Hills, “Our site gets cleaner each year. There were significantly fewer tires. In the past we filled a pickup truck with tires.”
So join us next year. Save the date for April 14, 2018 for the 30th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup!