News > News > 5th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep is Saturday, May 7; Students to collect data in ‘Trash Free Hudson’ project

5th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep is Saturday, May 7; Students to collect data in ‘Trash Free Hudson’ project

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From Brooklyn to Beacon to Troy: 100+ shoreline cleanups and plantings in a single day


Photo: Leah Rae / Riverkeeper

For Immediate Release: April 28, 2016

Contact: Leah Rae, Staff Writer and Media Specialist, (914) 478-4501 ext. 238; [email protected]

Ossining, N.Y. – About 2,000 volunteers will head for their local shorelines on Saturday, May 7, for the 5th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep – a one-day event encompassing more than 100 cleanups and plantings along the Hudson River and New York City shorelines from Brooklyn to the Capital District.

Riverkeeper’s annual event has grown rapidly and is part of its growing “Trash Free Hudson” initiative to reduce plastic and other floatable pollution in the estuary. In a new effort this year, students in seven locations will partner with cleanup volunteers to collect data on the exact types and amounts of debris recovered from shoreline locations. The new effort – a far more detailed survey than the basic tallies of the amount of trash removed from each site annually – aims to investigate upstream sources of trash and determine how to prevent such pollution from entering the waterways.

“Our volunteers are taking it a step further this year,” said Dana Gulley, Riverkeeper Director of Community Engagement. “We want to be able to say with more clarity and certainty what kind of trash we have and where. Then we can develop solutions based on that information.”

The teams that organize local Sweep projects – local community leaders and over 100 organizations such as schools, scout groups, clubs and park staff – haul an amazing amount of trash and recyclables from the river and shoreline in a single day.

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A wide range of local leaders organize the projects. Examples are non-profit groups (the Gowanus Canal Conservancy), boat clubs (Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse), fellow environmental groups (Guardians of Flushing Bay, Wallkill River Watershed Alliance), kayaking meet-up groups (Capital District Kayakers), small businesses (Hudson River Expeditions in Cold Spring, I Paddle NY in Saugerties), municipalities (Newburgh Conservation Advisory Council), AND agencies (NYC Department of Environmental Protection).

Assisting as data collectors this year will be students from the Aqua Culture Club Achievement First Crown Heights Middle School at Grand Ferry Park, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the Masters School, working in Hastings; Nyack High School at a Rockland County location to be determined; Vassar College on the Casperkill; The Mount Academy on its shoreline in Esopus; Storm King School and Cornwall High School at Plum Point, Cornwall; and a boat building club in Hudson. Each student will be matched up with one to three cleanup volunteers, recording each piece of trash collected for disposal or recycling.

The student groups were educated by Josh Kogan, coordinator of the Trash Free Waters Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2. They will follow a survey protocol developed by the Ocean Conservancy, counting, for example, each bottle cap, cigarette, take-out container and yard of fishing line recovered by their cleanup partners.

“Riverkeeper Sweep volunteers are performing a tremendous service to improve the health of the Hudson River Estuary. The new citizen science effort will add a new dimension to that,” Kogan said. “Data helps us characterize the pollution in our waterways, and establish better policy as a result. It starts with citizen science. It starts with community work.”

EPA Region 2 has set a goal of Trash Free Waters by 2025 – eliminating “point source” discharges into surface waters within that time frame.

Plastic pollution dominated the trash collected in previous Sweeps. Plastic bottles and Styrofoam were the most common items recovered.

Regional and global studies are yielding alarming data about plastic pollution in our waterways. Plastic can harm marine life by attracting and releasing contaminants into the water, and by being ingested by fish.

A University of Georgia study in 2015, based on data from 2010, estimated that about 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the world’s oceans in 2010 from people living within 50 kilometers of the coastline. That’s equivalent to finding five grocery bags full of plastic on every foot of coastline in the 192 countries examined.

A February 2016 report from NY/NJ Baykeeper (click for PDF) found at least 165 million plastic particles are floating within NY-NJ Harbor Estuary waters at any given time. Approximately 85 percent of particles counted were microplastics (smaller than 5mm) and the most abundant type of plastic present in samples was foam (38 percent). Microbeads – subject to a federal ban beginning in 2017 – made up just 3 percent of the material.

(Photo: Volunteers sort trash and recyclables collected from the shoreline at Dennings Point, Beacon, during a Riverkeeper Sweep 2014 project with partners Zero to Go.)

See our Flickr album from Riverkeeper Sweep 2015:

Riverkeeper Sweep 2015

Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

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