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Stopping Trash Where it Starts


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. The project focuses on litter generation and dispersal methods along the sidewalk to create linkages to the issue of floatable material or marine debris in the Harbor Estuary. The initial project focused on the Passaic River watershed. Similar to national surveys, the most abundant floatable debris in number was cigarette or tobacco related items while the largest volume of materials found was drink or food related single-use, plastics. The final report highlights these findings and recommendations to reduce sources of floatable debris before it becomes marine debris.

To further understand the issues of floatables in the Harbor Estuary, the project team extended the program into the Bronx River and Harlem River watersheds in 2018 and the Hackensack River Watershed in 2019. With additional funding from the Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, local partners will aid the team in identifying prominent sources and types of litter. Together, the data will inform actions to reduce marine derbis and stop trash where it starts.

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