The latest cleanup of Lake Pontchartrain show a changed litter pattern for this area. A changed patter here will reflect what make it to the Gulf.
There’s a lot of garbage in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a 2017 report by the LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, the Gulf has some of the highest concentrations of microplastics in the world – and that was before the pandemic spawned a surge of plastic waste in the form of discarded personal protective equipment. During the Pontchartrain Conservancy’s annual Storm Sweep in May, volunteers retrieved an unprecedented amount of discarded masks and gloves from Lake Pontchartrain, in addition to the usual cigarette butts and straws. The haul shows that the coronavirus pandemic changed a lot about daily life in the New Orleans area, including what kinds of trash people leave behind. “Disposable masks were the biggest one,” said Pontchartrain Conservancy Executive Director Kristi Trail. “We were curious about that, post-pandemic: Is PPE something we were going to see? And we did. That was new for us.”nola.com
The trash ends up in the Gulf of Mexico through many sources including the Lake. This is the 6th clean up, called Storm Sweep, and the first one where the items picked up changed.
Storm Sweep participants track the trash collected via an Ocean Conservancy app, CleanSwell. They bagged more than 5,000 pounds of trash, cleared 61 drainage catch basins and removed car parts and tires from the lakefront. Storm Sweep participants track the trash collected via an Ocean Conservancy app, CleanSwell. They bagged more than 5,000 pounds of trash, cleared 61 drainage catch basins and removed car parts and tires from the lakefront. PPE wasn’t the only new offender. Trail said food wrappers surged to the No. 1 spot on the trash list, a shift she attributes to the increase in outdoor eating during social distancing protocols. Parks saw an increase in litter, too. “We saw a good bit of trash in a lot of green spaces, which is encouraging and discouraging,” Trail said. “Over the past 18 months, we noticed people enjoying outdoor spaces, but they are bringing trash with them. The lakefront has really been a challenge to keep clean. It’s so windy.”
Lake Pontchartrain has a variety of life in it including clams, dolphins, bull sharks, bald eagles, pelicans, manatees, otters, redfish, tarpon and ospreys. It encompasses 630 square miles of water,
The conservancy’s 32nd annual Beach Sweep takes place in September. While both the Beach Sweep and Storm Sweep enlist volunteers to retrieve trash, the Storm Sweep highlights preparedness for the Atlantic Basin hurricane season while the Beach Sweep takes place on International Coast Cleanup day. Cleanup participation waned during the pandemic. It rebounded for last month’s Storm Sweep, and Trail hopes it continues to increase. “People were comfortable getting back out there, which is great, because last fall it was a struggle to get people out,” Trail said. “We are starting to go back to the way things used to be.”
These clean up operation need volunteers and it is something we could do as a group on the next one. The Pontchasrtrain Conservance gives nice t-shirts for those helping!