Boone installed its first Trash Trout on Winkler Creek on Wednesday, June 2. The passive litter collection device was installed by MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper in partnership with the Town of Boone — which provided the initial funding and is sponsoring the costs of monthly maintenance for the device.
The Trash Trout is fabricated by Asheville Greenworks, an Asheville-based nonprofit, as part of their litter prevention program. The device is a large cage with a wide mouth that floats on pontoons. Booms are anchored upstream on each bank to direct floating debris into the mouth of the cage. Large pieces of floating trash and plastic are trapped inside the Trash Trout, while smaller organic matter passes through and fish and other aquatic wildlife pass below the device.
According to Eric Bradford, Asheville Greenworks’s Director of Operations, roadside littering accounts for approximately 75% of the trash in the nation’s waterways. “Each time it rains, trash is funneled through our storm drain systems directly into our creeks,” explains Bradford. “Since most municipal stormwater systems lack filters or other mechanisms to keep the trash from entering our waterways, these Trash Trouts are necessary tools for our communities to clean up our rivers.”
Once the trash has entered the water, it will begin the process of photodegradation whereby petroleum-based products such as plastics begin to break into smaller pieces known as microplastics. Some of these tiny pieces of plastic are consumed by wildlife, and the rest of the debris will go on a journey that will take it through several states and rivers before finally ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Long-time river advocate and Sustainability and Special Projects Manager for the Town of Boone, George Santucci, said “The town is proud to partner with MountainTrue in cleaning up our waterways. As an organizer of hundreds of river cleanups over the years, a device like this is welcome as it will collect trash continuously.”
Andy Hill, High Country Regional Director and Watauga Riverkeeper, says that MountainTrue has plans to deploy more Trash Trouts across the New and Watauga River basins. “This project is a natural extension of our microplastics data collection,” explains Hill. “Our goal is to interrupt the waste stream to protect aquatic habitat while educating the community about the plastic crisis.” MountainTrue will service the Trash Trout and will collect data on every piece of litter collected.
Each Trash Trout costs approximately $3,500 to manufacture and install, not including the additional staff and volunteer time needed to empty and maintain the devices. MountainTrue is seeking support from businesses and individuals in the form of sponsorships in order to deploy more of these litter collection devices this summer. “We have a generous community that’s dedicated to keeping our area waterways healthy and clean,” says Hill. “If we all pitch in together, we can make a real difference when it comes to plastic pollution.”
The Trash Trouts are part of MountainTrue’s larger microplastics program. The conservation nonprofit collects and analyzes monthly water samples for the presence of microplastics and is using this data in partnership with other Riverkeepers across North Carolina to inform and develop programs to keep plastics out of our waters. To learn more about the clean water policies that MountainTrue is advocating for, visit iloverivers.org.
MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all. MountainTrue is active in the Broad, French Broad, Green, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New and Watauga watersheds, and is home to the Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, and Watauga Riverkeeper.