With record temperatures coloring the weather map red across much of the country this summer, many of us are seeking relief on lakes, rivers, bays and the ocean. This past weekend, I beat the heat by floating blissfully down the Shenandoah River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in an inner tube.
But right away I saw that my fellow tubers and I weren’t the only things being carried downstream. Around me bobbed all kinds of trash heading for the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. Wind and ocean currents might even carry this trash to the North Pacific Gyre, or Pacific Garbage Patch.
My friend Steve and I made a fun and friendly competition of spotting and cleaning up Styrofoam cups, food wrappers, red-and-white fishing corks and even someone’s lost Croc.
There were so many single-use beverage containers, I figured they likely bounced out of rafts or even people’s hands as they adventured through the rapids.
One of the most pervasive items was monofilament. We saw the sturdy fishing line everywhere—big snarls along with long, dangerous single strands almost impossible to see in the water, waiting to entangle hapless water birds, fish and other wildlife.
Collecting as much as we could carry, we wished we’d brought along a huge sack. But when we reached the outfitter’s pick up site at the end of the trip, a growing pile of trash was waiting for proper disposal thanks to our fellow adventurers.
It was great to see what a difference we’d all made together in one morning, working one by one. And it felt terrific knowing we left that beautiful river, a path to the ocean, cleaner than we found it.
How can each of us pitch in?
Simple: think ahead. If you’re going tubing, rafting, canoeing, kayaking or heading out on a sailboat or power boat, it’s easy to protect wildlife and clean water.
- Take a bag—or two—for collecting trash; mesh lets the water drain out.
- Consider taking a dip net so you can easily snag items.
- Bring a reusable beverage bottle and secure it with twine so it doesn’t fall out and become trash; towing it in the water keeps your drink cool.
- Minimize trash when packing snacks or picnics.
- Recycle everything you can back onshore, including fishing line (find out about monofilament recycling here).
Got a notable experience with trash in the water you’d like to share, like finding weird items or large amounts of trash that surprised you? Share your story below in the comments section.