Thousands of volunteers marked the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup by gathering a prosthetic leg, double bed, tens of thousands of beverage containers and assorted other trash from streams throughout the watershed.
Figures for the cleanup, which was scheduled to continue at roughly 300 locations during the course of the month, were still being compiled, but by mid-April more than 5,000 volunteers had gathered 133,668 tons of trash from 192 sites.
"Though it's great to have the fabulous volunteer turnout we enjoyed, the fact remains that trash is still a major problem in the Potomac River watershed-even after 20 years of these events," said Tracy Bowen, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which organizes the cleanup. "We're making positive progress, but there is still a lot of work, a lot of education and outreach to do around this issue."
The Potomac event is the largest river cleanup in the region and has led to a Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, a regionwide effort spearheaded by the foundation to reduce trash and litter, as well as increase recycling, education and awareness of trash issues in the watershed with the goal of a "Trash Free Potomac by 2013."
Among the trash collected were a surfboard, a backpack with clothes and a wallet, real estate sign, traffic cones, pink sleeping bag, boat parts, three auto seats, five artificial Christmas trees, two fuel tanks and many items of construction debris. Cleanups took place throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Potomac isn't the only trash-strewn waterway. A report issued by the Ocean Conservancy in April said a global cleanup that scoured 33,000 miles of shoreline last September gathered more than 6 million pounds of debris in 76 countries.
But in the Potomac, more than 71 local government leaders have signed a "trash treaty" committing them to develop and implement regional strategies to combat the trash problem, which the treaty says degrades communities as well as waterways.
The foundation is organizing its 3rd Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit on June 17, which will take place at The World Bank in Washington, D.C. The summit will be a forum for citizens and elected officials to work together on the litter and trash problem affecting the region. Outcomes will focus on regional solutions and implementation techniques, strategies for collaboration, education, opportunities and incentives for becoming "Trash Free by 2013."