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Shirley Freriks: Plastic Free Yuba River starts now

Shirley Freriks | Guest Columnist


Love going to the Yuba River to cool off? And take your visitors? Want to be kind to the river? And the environment? Then leave the plastic bottles and containers at home. Can’t take glass either – so grab your metal reusables for drink and food!

Besides the locals, an estimated 800,000 visitors come to enjoy our beautiful river each year. Unfortunately, they leave a lot of trash behind…and we may, too. Since the cleanup began 25 years ago, SYRCL has picked up over 130 tons of garbage from our watershed. In 2021 alone, the cleanup crews picked up 863 take away (mostly plastic) containers – 1,767 bottles (mostly plastic) and 3,271 cigarette butts (the filters are made of microplastic fibers). Bless those volunteers!

Plastic trash was one of the topics covered at the Plastic Free July event on June 27, created by The WasteNOT committee of NC-Climate Action Now and produced by Nevada County Media (event video on their YouTube channel). Daniel Elkin, South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) communications and engagement director, showed pictures and statistics from the 2021 cleanup.

Elkin pointed out that microplastics in the river are a new and serious concern. They come from the bigger plastics, like bottles and containers, that bounce around and degrade over time. Microplastics also slough off of polyester and nylon clothing worn or washed in the river. Unfortunately, these plastics do get deposited in our river shallows and can be stuck there for years depending on the rain and flow of the river. A research team showed that these items in the river only move an estimated 7 kilometers a year, so lots of time to break down smaller and smaller to contaminate our water. Remember, plastics never really go away. Research shows that microplastics have entered water, food, and soils, and are now found in human bodies, causing health problems.

Together we can reduce the amount of microplastics in our local watershed. Come on out to help pick up the trash Sept. 10-17. Bring the kids so they can see for themselves what results from our throwaway society’s habits, and pledge to start new ones. Sign up for SYRCL’s 25th Annual Volunteer River Cleanup Event at http://www.yubariver.org.

Let’s not love the Yuba to death! Elkin said, “The best way to keep microplastics from contaminating our beautiful river is to not let them get there in the first place.”

Please pack out your stuff – and politely remind others to do the same. Plastic creates a potent, toxic greenhouse gas, methane, as it degrades. We, the people, can do our parts to regenerate our environment. Thank you!

Shirley Freriks represents the WasteNOT committee of Nevada County Climate Action Now. She can be contacted at http://www.ncclimateactionnow.org/about-3

Since the cleanup began 25 years ago, SYRCL has picked up over 130 tons of garbage from the Yuba River.

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