Category Archives: Plastic waste

History of Philadelphia’s Plastic Litter Battle

The Schuylkill Navy Rivers Stewards Committee held a Street Litter – River Trash workshop on 11/19/15 that included representatives from the with Philadelpha’s Streets-Water-Parks & Recreation Departments as well a number of other groups.

I presented a talk on the history of Philadelphia’s plastic litter. Here are links pdf and PowerPoint copies of my talk.

Plastic Bags – The Economists Video

The Plastic Age – Documentary

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!

How to sample for microplastics in creeks

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.

Source: http://www.chartiersgreenway.net/hydrology.htm

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

Girard_2_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.

Plastic Debris along Schuylkill Banks in Fairmount Park

The Schuylkill River through Fairmount Park is one of Philadelphia’s treasures.  Unfortunately, upstream stormwater runoff carries trash to the Schuylkill River,  where some gets caught on the River banks while the rest continues to flow downriver to the Delaware River and Bay.

This Schuylkill River bank trash survey was conducted on the West bank from the dam to Girard Ave bridge on 4/7/15.

There is a significant quantity of plastic debris along the shore line caught in the vegetation along the bank .