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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Ways to Help Keep Local Waterways Clean

May 31, 2018 04:26PM

by Sam Perkins

It’s 2018—do people even litter anymore? While we have come a long way, they most certainly do. In 2017 at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation 18 cleanup events, volunteers removed more than 73,000 pounds of trash from throughout the basin’s creeks, lakes and main-stem river. A lot of trash isn’t new. It’s old. While sampling for bacteria on Sugar Creek, I recently found a Pepsi can stamped with a 1995 expiration date. To be fair, we’ve also found Coke bottles from the 1950s. Pull-tab beer cans. Whitewall tires. Winn-Dixie shopping carts. This is legacy trash, and it dwindles with every cleanup.

Records from one of the region’s largest cleanup events—Lake Wylie Riversweep—reveal that on average, each volunteer gets approximately eight pounds of trash less than they did the prior year. We are slowly seeing less trash. We even have trouble finding trash where we have performed cleanups twice per year. It’s a good problem to have, but we know a lot of trash is missed, and more gets added every year.

We hope the public will both follow our work and events and also join us, both as a Catawba Riverkeeper member and a volunteer. The free Catawba Water Watcher smartphone app can be downloaded.

See concentrated trash around a waterway we should get at our next cleanup? Open the Trash Logger tool, give us some info, snap a picture and submit! Your phone’s GPS will automatically give us a precise location.

As more people realize where their drinking water comes from or get out on waterways for recreation, they’ll connect that what trash might get carelessly tossed on the ground will make its way to a storm drain, a creek and, ultimately, our river and drinking water reservoirs.

People might not have stopped littering this year, but you can at least use your smartphone now to help us clean up trash from the waterways we all enjoy and need.


Sam Perkins is the Catawba RIVERKEEPER. He can be contacted at [email protected]


In seeking to sustain plentiful, clean water for generations to come, the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a local, community-based group of members and volunteers  throughout the 24-county river basin that educates and advocates to ensure the protection of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin’s lakes, rivers and streams.



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