Trash and debris in the Harbor Estuary is a persistent problem. While various clean-up programs and techniques are essential, innovative solutions are necessary to make a lasting impact. Engaging stakeholders to develop a long-lasting, proactive solution to trash prevention and detection, the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) is concentrating on addressing land-based sources of trash before it enters the waterway. With initial funding from the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in 2017, the Hudson River Foundation and HEP partnered with Montclair State University's Passaic River Institute to collect data on the types, sources, and conditions that lead to marine debris in the Passaic River watershed. Additional funding provided by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Urban Waters Federal Partnership, and the Hudson River Foundation, the project was further expanded into the Bronx/Harlem River watershed in 2018 and the Hackensack River watershed in 2019. Stopping Trash Where it Starts focuses on litter generation and dispersal methods along the sidewalk, or the right-of-way, to improve understanding on the linkage between floatable material dispersal on land and its pathway onto becoming marine debris.
Similar to national surveys, the most abundant floatable debris found along the right-of-way in number was cigarette or tobacco related items while the largest volume of materials found was drink or food related single-use, plastics across each watershed evaluated in the Harbor Estuary. The final reports below highlight these findings and recommendations to reduce sources of floatable debris before it becomes marine debris. The data collected throughout this initiative will help to inform actions needed to stop trash where it starts.