Water Blog

News, notes and thoughts from Blue Water Baltimore.

Trawling the Harbor for Trash

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When we survey the Inner Harbor, it is easy to see some types of trash. Plastic bottles and bags often float to the surface. But what about those smaller pieces of trash, like cigarette butts and tiny bits of expanded polystyrene foam (aka styrofoam)? On July 20th, Blue Water Baltimore’s Waterkeeper team partnered with Trash Free Maryland and the National Aquarium to do a Trash Trawl in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
During a trash trawl, a specially-designed mesh net skims the surface of the water as a boat drives a particular route to capture a sample of debris. We collected six samples in the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. Our goal in performing this trawl is to determine a baseline for how much EPS foam is currently in our waterways. Researchers with Trash Free Maryland are currently analyzing the samples to determine what types of trash are in the Inner Harbor, paying close attention to the amount of EPS foam.
Earlier this year, Baltimore City passed a law to ban EPS foam used in carryout containers. The ban will go into effect in October 2019. After the EPS foam ban takes effect, we will perform a second trawl to compare the amount of EPS foam in the water before and after the ban. We will also count EPS foam during our Cheers to Clean Water trash cleanup event on September 8th with Trash Free MD and local breweries! These data will show the impact of laws to keep this particular type litter off of the streets and out of our waterways.
Thank you to the National Aquarium for their boat and to Trash Free Maryland for analyzing the data! This effort was also empowered through funding and the loaning of the trawl from the NOAA Marine Debris Program via Trash Free Maryland.

Photos courtesy of Trash Free Maryland.