Project WASTE (Waterway And Street Trash Elimination) addresses floatable trash, one of the three major water quality issues on the Bronx River. Volunteers participate in real science, through hands-on experiences. The information we collect helps find the source(s) and stop trash from entering the river in the first place. The project engages stewards by promoting outreach to local businesses whose products end up in and along the river, especially uniting messaging around the harm to our waterways caused by non-biodegradable products. Don’t be like Stormwater Sam, join us today!
Resources & Documents
We have successfully completed our microplastics pilot study! Microplastics (microscopic plastics) come from many different sources, including health products, clothing, and plastic litter and waste. These particles are polluting the world’s rivers and oceans in ways we are just beginning to understand. Together with our colleagues at Rocking the Boat, we have designed a method to collect, process, and analyze samples of water from the Bronx River for microplastics. We hope to have students and volunteers participate in this exciting new program soon!
2019 Project WASTE Results
In 2019, Project WASTE was expanded with the addition of the Street Trash Surveys, which surveyed sidewalks on the streets adjacent to the Bronx River in both Westchester and the Bronx.These new data provided useful insights into the movement of trash from the streets into the river, and where most trash in the river may be originating from. A total of 17,792 items were counted during these surveys, with 69% coming from Bronx streets. Unlike the trash found in the river, the litter on the street is dominated by cigarette butts and plastic fragments and pieces, followed by food/candy wrappers.
The graphs below show the total amount of trash removed and the total number of clean-ups that took place at each site from 2016 to 2019.
Special thanks to Korin Tangtrakul and Westchester Community Foundation for making this data visualization possible.
In total, 26,811 items were removed from the Bronx River in 2019. The amount of Styrofoam pieces removed in 2019, 16,273 (60.92% of the total trash removed) very closely matches the amount that is removed each year on average, while the amount of Styrofoam packing pellets (2,860, 10.67% of the total trash removed) was above average. As the map below clearly shows, Styrofoam waste (purple) dominates trash in the upper river, while it is found in much lower quantities in the lower river. In its absence, plastic waste (green) dominates the lower river. The number of plastic bottles removed remained consistent in 2019, while the number of cigarette butts and other drug-related items (1,528, 5.7%) was slightly higher than the 4-year average, as was the quantity of toys and other recreational equipment found in the river. The number of plastic bags, food/candy wrappers, drink cups, plastic fragments and pieces, and bottle caps were collected in slightly fewer numbers in 2019. The results of the street trash surveys show that these items are very commonly deposited on sidewalks, especially in the Bronx. We would expect these items to make up a large portion of the waste that is removed from the river. In Westchester, cigarette butts were prevalent among street litter while Styrofoam was found in small amounts. Yet, at the Muskrat Cove Boom, Styrofoam is removed in astronomical amounts every year while cigarette butts made up just over 5% of all trash removed from the boom in 2019. Focused efforts in Westchester will need to be conducted to help identify the sources of this excessive Styrofoam pollution and how it can be prevented.
Read more about Project WASTE on our flyer and our 2017 report to the EPA. To learn more about the effects of plastic on our ecosystems, this video is an excellent depiction of the scale of the issue, and this video dives (literally!) into microplastics. Find out more about microplastics and microbeads here!
Essential to protecting our waterways is the regular maintenance and proper functionality of city storm drains. Click here to watch a quick video from NYC DEP of how stormwater catch basins are kept clean and free of debris!
Interested in participating in our trash research and elimination program? Email Ecology@bronxriver.org to learn more!