Category Archives: Plastic Pollution

Removing Plastic Bottles from our Rivers – Living Lands & Water Video

Living Lands and Water has done hundreds of river cleanups across the USA. They find plastic bottles to be the most common river trash problem. This video shows LL&W in action.



Delaware River Cleanup – 32,832 pounds

Living Lands & Waters,  Philadelphia Water Department,  Partnership for Delaware Estuary and over 230 volunteers collected 16+ tons of trash along the Delaware in 20 cleanups from August 20 to September 2 (link)

Photo shows volunteers headin g out to one of the cleanup sites. Click the  image to see Flickr photos from the cleanups.


Great job, thanks to all who participated and organized this effort.

Microplastics in Our Oceans

Biologist Dr Pennie Lindeque from Plymouth Marine Laboratory shows how microplastics are impacting food chain, potentially affecting seafood.



Trash Free Maryland’s Trash Trawl

Short video by Julie Lawson on Trash Free Maryland’s 2015 Trash Trawl.


Time to start planning the 2016 Delaware River – Bay Trash Trawl!

Water Pollution Stages of Philadelphia’s Plastic Litter

Have you wondered what happens to Philadelphia’s plastic litter? This pdf shows the water pollution  stages of Philadelphia’s plastic litter. here is a slideshow of a recent talk.

You can download a pdf of this talk here.


Ocean Plastic Videos

Anna Cummins – 5 Gyres


Captain Moore – Agalita Marine Research Institute



Plankton Munching on Microplastics




Fate and Impact of Microplastic in Marine Ecosystems

Teeny, Tiny Plastic Monsters: Microplastics in our Ocean – Lecture by Dr. Peter Ross – Vancouver Aquarium (4/15/15)

Microplastics Research Update

I have been assembling a bibliography of marine litter – microplastic research and wanted to give a short update on my findings to date.  My current microplastic bibliography is available here.

Springer has just released a 460 page open source book (link) on Marine Anthropogenic Litter which covers the entire marine – freshwater microplastic research field very well.


This book provides up-to-date information by the leading microplastic researchers.  Microplastic ingestion has been observed and documented in hundreds of marine species.

More recently, elevated microplastics levels have been found in the  Great Lakes, North Shore Channel, Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay, so there is reason to be concerned about expect elevated levels in the Schuylkill – Delaware Rivers.


Sewage treatment plants have been identified as one source of microplastic discharge. Researchers have sampled for microplastics in the Chicago area North Shore Channel, upstream and downstream of  Chicago area’s  Terrence J O‘Brien Water Reclamation Plant and have found elevated levels of microplastics downstream of the plant discharge.


Table 1 of the paper is reproduced below:


This Chicago activated sludge treatment plant discharges very high levels of microplastic fibers and fragments with values considerably higher than those found in the Great Lakes and N Pacific, as shown in Figure 1 from the paper.


If follow-up studies confirm the North Shore Channel and TJ O’Brien plant microplastic discharge levels, then urban rivers and municipal treatment plant discharges will be identified as potential significant sources of marine microplastics.

Microplastics in  the marine environment has been well researched.  Work on microplastics in freshwater  is just beginning. The role of wastewater treatment plants and stormwater runoff will be important focus of upcoming research.

Philadelphia is in a particularly difficult situation. Downstream of large – developed basins, Philadelphia’s Schuylkill and Delaware River water supply intakes likely see elevated microplastics levels and the City’s 3 wastewater treatment plants and stormwater runoff likely contribute  microplastics to the Delaware Estuary and Bay.

We know microplastics present a serious challenge to the marine environment, recent freshwater research is showing that microplastics are also a freshwater challenge. Clearly we need a research program focused on microplastics in the Schuylkill – Delaware Rivers.


How to sample for microplastics in creeks

Plastic Bags Trashing Tacony Creek Park

I conducted a photo survey of plastic bags and other trash in a small area of Tacony Creek Park along Cresentville Road from Hammond Ave to Adams Ave on Sunday, April 26, 2015. This map shows this area of the Park.


Click any photo to launch the gallery slide show.

Groups like the Tookany-Tacony-Frankford Creek Watershed Partnership have many volunteer cleanups throughout the year. Unfortunately, the litter load is too much for the volunteers and the City’s Streets and Parks & Recreation Department to keep up. We must begin to reduce the plastic trash load by reducing the use of unnecessary plastic in our.

Please help protect Tacony Creek park, our neighborhoods and creeks by supporting Councilman Mark Squilla’s Philadelphia Single Use bag fee bill 150373 before Philadelphia City Council.

Please let you City Councilor know that you care about our Parks, Creeks and Rivers an that you support Bill 150373.


Understanding Schuylkill River Bank Plastic Bottle Trash

The Schuylkill River from the Girard Ave Bridge to Fairmount Dam has a significant plastic bottle accumulation along the West bank (link, link). Geomorphology  can help us understand why.

The Schuylkill, like many rivers, meanders with numerous bends as it makes its way from the headwaters to the Delaware River.  These bends play an important role in the shape and life of the river. Bend outside banks tends to erode while the inside banks tend to form point bars.


Let’s take a look at the Schuylkill from just upriver of Girard Ave Bridge to Fairmount Dam.



You can see 2 bends in the River, the bend near Girard Ave Bridge and the bend by Boat House Row.  The mud flats on the West bank of the River by the Girard Ave. Bridge have been formed by point bar type deposition of sediment on the inner bank of the River. These mud flats have proven to be an effective natural plastic bottle trash trap, as shown in this photo of the West Bank taken on 4/11/15.

Photo by Kelly O'Day

Most of these bottles have been carried by stormwater to the Schuylkill and have flowed downriver. During high flow periods some bottles accumulate along the inner curve of the River bends and get stranded when the River flow recedes.

The Girard Ave mud flats are an excellent location to monitor the Schuylkill River plastic trash  load over time. The Schuylkill Navy has cleaned approximately 1,300 feet of the West bank so that future plastic accumulation rates can be measured at this location.