Three Decades and Counting – Results of the 31st Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup

News Release, Alice Ferguson Foundation

This past April, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and dozens of partners celebrated the 31st Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.  More than 300 trash cleanup events occurred throughout the Potomac River Watershed, including events in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia & West Virginia.

Site coordinators from 286 of the 318 registered cleanups around the watershed captured and reported their cleanup data, and for 2019 we collected 376,933 pounds of trash – a whopping 30,000 more pounds than the 2018 cleanups!

Cleanup volunteers contribute citizen science data that includes the total pounds of trash removed and a count of the common trash items they collect. That data is aggregated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative and serves as a data point for advocates promoting waste-reduction legislation, including the plastic bag fees and the Styrofoam ban.

This year, the cleanup’s focus was on single-use beverage containers including plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans. According to the Container Recycling Institute, “more than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion last year.” Volunteers participating in the Foundation’s flagship Piscataway Park Cleanup on April 13th collected 71 bags full of single-use beverage containers with an estimated 50 single-use beverage containers in each bag – the majority of which were plastic water bottles.

The Potomac River provides the drinking water for 80% of the residents within the watershed.  Rising global awareness of the immediate threat of plastic pollution has activated volunteers locally to be thinking and mobilizing to protect and maintain the beauty of our region’s waterways.  Since 1989, the annual Potomac River Cleanup has engaged more than 150,000 volunteers to collect over 7 million pounds of trash and prevent it from entering the Potomac River.

The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is an awe-inspiring event with more than 300 cleanup events planned throughout the watershed during Earth Month. Community leaders, non-profits, regional stakeholders, and volunteers will partner once again for a cleaner watershed at the 32nd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on April 18th, 2020.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s educational programs unite students, educators, park rangers, communities, regional organizations, and government agencies throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to promote the environmental sustainability of the Potomac River watershed.

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