2018’s Craziest River Items, Highlights and Champions

A blow torch, bowling ball and mannequin head are some of the bizarre items volunteers and organizers found at river cleanups in 2018! Check out the highlights and our 2018 Cleanup Champions.

Lynch Cover Run Cleanup, Dundalk MD | Photo by John Long

Although 2018 has passed, we are still celebrating National River Cleanup®’s successes! In 2018, National River Cleanup registered cleanups at 3,166 sites, mobilized 57,228 volunteers and removed almost 2,000,000 pounds of trash.

Volunteer with bowling ball | Christina River, DE | Photo by Andrea Stewart
Volunteer with bowling ball | Christina River, DE | Photo by Joe Butera

While cleaning up waterways and communities, volunteers were busy picking up usual items such as water bottles and tires, but this year was a little different. Volunteers in 2018 found some unique and, at times, bizarre findings. Here are a select few:

  • Plastic raven statue
  • Mannequin head
  • Bowling ball and… a disco ball
  • Blow torch
  • Cash register
  • 15 unmatched sandals
  • Washing machine

Cleanup organizers and volunteers spend a lot of time outside getting dirty, but it’s important to recognize the time and effort it takes before that to plan a successful event (approximately 10 hours for an average size cleanup). For larger cleanups, it takes much longer. Organizing a cleanup takes determination and dedication.

National River Cleanup is proud to work with cleanup organizers and volunteers nationwide to help make their cleanups even more successful and protect waterways near and dear to our hearts!

In 2016, we launched the National River Cleanup Champions program to shine a light on cleanup organizers and all the great work taking place across the country. The categories for the 2018 awards are:

  • Most River Miles Cleaned
  • Most Pounds of Trash Collected
  • Most Volunteers Mobilized
  • Tiny but Mighty
  • Cleanup to Watch

Want more?

Check out what some of the National River Cleanup organizers had to say:

Great Los Angeles River Cleanup | Photo by William Freas
Great Los Angeles River Cleanup | Photo by William Freas

Friends of Los Angeles River (FOLAR): “We are thrilled to be recognized by National River Cleanup as the 2018 Cleanup Champion for mobilizing the most volunteers. Our Great LA River Cleanup is 30 years old this year, which promises to be our biggest and most impactful yet. Over the years we’ve mobilized over 55,000 people to remove a cumulative 500 tons of trash. This is a true display of River stewardship and the power of community.”

Amigos Bravos: “Taos County River and Lands Clean Up is a strong community collaboration removing at least 2 tons/year for the last 12 years. Organizational leaders include: Rocky Mountain Youth Corp (AmeriCorps), lends many youth to the effort and their organizational prowess; Amigos Bravos, a state-wide water conservation NGO who helps to organize the effort, gather supplies and promote the cleanup; the Taos County Solid Waste Disposal provides heavy equipment, large dumpsters and volunteers; and the Forest Service, Camino Real Ranger District provides vehicles, equipment, and site location identification. Numerous other community members and organizations also support this trash removal effort. Taos is plagued with illegal dumping sites and we are proud to work towards a cleaner future for our County’s forests, waterways, and inhabitants.”

Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership: “Tiny but mighty? Hoo-ray for the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, Ouray Ice Park and the clean-up crew! One reason for the amazing weight of debris collected is that it hadn’t been done before, so there was a lot of heavy old junk in there. But it sure was great to get it out, and when I climb in the gorge, I smile, thinking about our efforts during our inaugural Love Your Gorge event.” – John Hulburd”

Boardman River Clean Sweet | Photo by Norm Fred
Boardman River Clean Sweep | Photo by Norm Fred

Boardman River Clean Sweep: “The Boardman River Clean Sweep started 15 years ago as a one-time cleanup on the Boardman River in Traverse City, MI. We invited our entire paddle club and expected 8 or 10 to arrive, but 80 excited paddlers showed up. Now we clean 21 rivers, and multiple illegal dumping sites along our rivers and tributaries. We have fostered 14 other organizations who now clean their local rivers with our help.”

CT River Conservancy: “For 22 years, CRC volunteers have gotten their hands dirty and feet wet for cleaner rivers. Less trash is being found in the Connecticut River and tributary streams. But single-use plastics like plastic bags or beverage bottles, as well as dumped tires and Styrofoam have been persistent. CRC’s Source to Sea Cleanup goes beyond cleaning up tons of trash. Thousands of volunteers leave the cleanup fired up to make more of a difference. They join us in taking action to pressure our government leaders, businesses, and manufactures to “Stop Trash Before It Starts” by passing laws that reduce trash and improve recycling, voluntarily offering better options to consumers, and taking responsibility for manufactured products from creation through use and reuse. Our volunteers’ are helping overhaul the larger trash system!”

Thornapple River Watershed Council: “Organizing is easy when there are experienced dedicated participants willing to help rain or shine. The Council and Barry Conservation District have been doing this joint cleanup for more than 20 years with the support of volunteers, sponsors and organizers. A few years ago, we started using an online registration process which helped organize who wanted to go where allowing us to steer resources and maximize our efforts. Each year offers some unique finds from 100’s of tires to large screen TV’s. In recent years, the trash yield has been low and the health of our tributary is good due to our efforts and the efforts of local municipalities, canoe liveries, riparian owners and educational instructions.”

Thank you to all National River Cleanup organizers for being champions of our rivers!

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