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What’s red and blue and devours almost anything?

An inexpensive, low-tech device is being deployed throughout Florida and other southeastern states to capture trash in the waterways. Distributed by the nonprofit organization Bigwater Foundation, the floatable device consists of a chain of buoyant plastic balls and a net. It’s called a Watergoat—because goats eat anything—and can be stretched across a canal or stream to catch floating debris. The Watergoat attaches to an embankment or headwall and stops plastic bottles, foam coffee cups, fast food wrappers, and all sorts of other gunk from entering a larger body of water; you can see photos here and here.

More than 80 Watergoats have been put in place so far. Volunteers clean them out using pool scoops. In Tampa, for example, college students from the honor society Phi Theta Kappa have “adopted” a goat and work to remove the hundreds of pounds of trash it stops each month from entering Tampa Bay.

Similar devices have been used elsewhere, such as the trash wheels—based on the ancient concept of the water wheel—in Baltimore Harbor. The very large arrays proposed by inventor Boyan Slat to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch are essentially the same idea, although those are up to a mile long and cost about $6 million apiece.

Along with gathering up the trash that’s already in the water, local communities are also focusing on source control. In the Tampa area, for example, many restaurants and other businesses are voluntarily eliminating single-use plastic products like straws, cups, and coasters. The city council of Clearwater, FL, passed a resolution in May encouraging the practice, and 50 local restaurants are participating in the Strawless Summer Challenge, meaning they give out straws only on request. Other cities are banning items like straws and plastic bags outright. Starbucks has just pledged to eliminate the use of plastic straws in its stores worldwide by 2020.

Are you seeing efforts of this kind in your own community? What do you think is the most useful thing people can do to address the trash problem? SW_bug_web

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  1. Great article and links. One of the links also shows how restaurant owner Bobby Heilman of Heilman’s Beachcomber is leading the way with sustainable business practices. Hoping others take note and continue to make change.

  2. In Vermont on the first Saturday in May, we celebrate Greenup Day. Greenup Day predates Earth Day and is my favorite holiday. People all over the state don orange vests and bright green trash bags and walk their neighborhood roads to collect trash along the roadsides that has accumulated over the winter. Greenup Day enlists thousands of folks to clean up the roads. But perhaps even more importantly, it instills a sense of ownership of place and creates community with our neighbors. I wish more states adopted Greenup Day as a State holiday.

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