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Riverkeeper Sweep 2020 results: New challenges, big success

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Photo: Rob Lowenthal
View more images on our Flickr site

Sweep 2020 results

Like so much else in 2020, our biggest annual event involved a postponement, added safety precautions and overall reimagining and adapting. Normally held on the cusp of summer, the 2020 Riverkeeper Sweep occurred in autumn among changing leaves. Although the event looked different this year, our volunteers, as always, succeeded in making a tangible improvement to shorelines and parks, all the way from Brooklyn to the Capital District.

Here’s what we achieved together on October 17, 2020, during the 9th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep:

Photo: Jen Epstein

• 1,100+ volunteers involved

• 67 projects completed

• 16.6 tons of debris removed, including 1,880 pounds of recycling, plus other large debris, including scrap metal, shopping carts, 50-gallon barrels, plywood, and ropes

• 98 tires removed

• 399 trees or native plants planted or maintained

• Hundreds of pounds of invasive plants removed

Single-use items continue to dominate shoreline trash

Photo: David Oliver

The bulk of shoreline debris continues to be single-use items, such as plastic bottles, wrappers, metal cans, and food packaging. Twenty-five out of 67 sites identified single-use drink containers (cups, bottles, and cans) made of plastic, Styrofoam, and metal as most prevalent.

• Most common item: plastic bottles

• Other common items: metal cans and glass bottles

At eight locations, volunteers gathered more detailed data, identifying and categorizing each item based on the Ocean Conservancy’s Volunteer Ocean Trash Data Form.

This year’s data spotlighted the problem of cigarette butts, found in large numbers in Irvington (153), Nyack (122), and Esopus (79). Check out the detailed data, color-coded by location.

Each year our volunteers find a few surprises in the trash. Noteworthy items found this year included a diving board, a bible, multiple bike handles, a plastic rocking horse, several air conditioners, two record players and a Mr. Met doll.

Sweeps make a lasting difference

Here’s the good news. Nine years into the program, we’ve seen several sites go from neglected dumpsites to well-maintained spaces that no longer require annual cleanup efforts. For that reason, many Sweep projects are transitioning from cleanups to invasive species removal or tree planting projects.

We were heartened to hear that the vast majority of sites were cleaner this year than in previous years. It’s not clear whether these improvements might be due to the timing – at the end of the primary outdoor recreation season, instead of the beginning – but the less trash we find, the better.

In 2021, we hope to expand Riverkeeper Sweep to new locations and bring more planting and invasive species removal projects into the mix.

Do you know of a site in your community along the Hudson River or a tributary in need of a cleanup? If you’re interested in coordinating a project next spring, please contact Jen Benson at jbenson@riverkeeper.org.

We can’t be certain exactly what next spring will bring. But in the meantime, we welcome you to save the date, Saturday, May 1, 2021, for the 10th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep. If you are interested in leading a Sweep project, please contact Jen Benson at jbenson@riverkeeper.org.

View photos in our Flickr album below.

Riverkeeper Sweep 2020

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