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River Day, Stream Cleanups and Tracking Trash

Partners from around the Cuyahoga River and nearshore Lake Erie watersheds gathered this past weeked to spend time celebrating River Day presented by Cuyahoga River Restoration, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, whose mission is to restore, revitalize, and protect the Cuyahoga River Watershed and nearshore Lake Erie. Water lovers united to get outdoors and recreate while pitching in to celebrate 52 years since the last fire on the Cuyahoga River. Cuyahoga SWCD staff hosted cleanups along Euclid Creek and Tinkers Creek.

Cuyahoga SWCD has hosted or helped to host annual stream cleanups in Big Creek, Euclid Creek, and Rocky River watersheds for over 20 years. One of our watershed volunteers, Emily Brown, approached us at a Rocky River stream cleanup a few years ago, back when we would all gather in big groups after an event to celebrate together. Emily had noticed some trash hotspots in the Euclid Creek watershed, and she was very passionate about tracking the data that goes along with litter. We had always counted the total number of bags filled at an event, and the number of tires found for our partners with American Rivers, but Emily encouraged us to use a paper data form and count the numbers and types of trash we were finding to better define human impacts on our waterways.

This started us on a path towards thinking more about where litter is coming from, what it is made of, and how can we start conversations with those able to drive change in our waste stream. Our regular Euclid Creek volunteers now know that as a routine part of our cleanups we spend 15-20 minutes at the end of the event tracking what we found. Then in 2020 American Rivers introduced us to a mobile application called Litterati that lets you track what you picked up as you pick it up. You take a picture of every piece of litter found and then you "tag" it with the Object, Material, and Brand. We started testing out the app in November 2020 and since then have done several virtual challenges and a few day of challenges with about 40 total participants tracking data in the app. We are happy to announce we have received a grant from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to expand these efforts and we hope you will join us this fall and next spring to try out our “smart grabbers” and help us to tell the story of trash while we pick up!

Questions about Litterati? Contact Watershed Program Manager Elizabeth Hiser at ehiser@cuyahogaswcd.org

Thanks to those who challenged us to reduce our stream cleanup waste stream, the irony of using plastic bags to pick up plastic waste is not lost on us. Now we are partnering with Sibling Revelry to repurpose their used grain and hops bags, giving them a second life before the landfill and helping us to collect litter for proper disposal. Need bags for your cleanup? Contact Elizabeth to arrange a pick up!

Blog Author: Elizabeth Hiser, Watershed Program Manager

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