In just three hours last week, volunteers (1,700) at dozens of sites (46) in the upper Raritan River Watershed removed a mountain of trash and recyclables (18 tons) from almost 80 miles of river, stream and lakefront. They took part in the Raritan Headwaters Association’s annual Stream Cleanup on Monday, April 13. And it was the “best year yet,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of Raritan Headwaters.
As admirable as this and similar efforts are, the catalog of their achievements can make for depressing reading. But here goes: The volunteers collected 9,133 plastic bottles, 3,039 plastic bags and 53 car and truck tires.
A recent pilot study by Raritan Headwaters found microplastics the size of poppy seeds or smaller, at several sites. A large percentage of the microplastics in this study originated as larger plastic items such as bags, wraps, water bottles and other single-use plastics.
“The Raritan River is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million New Jersey homes and businesses. Every piece of trash and litter we pick up helps keep that water clean and safe,” said Ehrenclou.
Cleanup coordinator Jeff Geist said they also hauled in everything from a mannequin, a massage table, several televisions, bicycles, a rusted meat grinder, a PlayStation console, a couch and, what do you know, even a kitchen sink.