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Sonoma County Gazette
Decomposing Albatross with trash in belly.

Tracking Our Trash Footprint –
Source to Sea

Aug 31, 2017


The Russian River Confluence is a movement to bring people together to celebrate and protect the river that is the life of our communities”, states Adriane Garayalde RRC Coordinator. Bringing awareness that what each person does, whether at home or recreating on the river, can affect the water quality in the river is vital to river health. Trash is just one of the water quality issues plaguing the Russian River.   A healthy river provides water for our homes and businesses, a healthy agricultural economy, a place of recreation, thriving wildlife and fish, and economic vitality. 

What happens to the cans, bottles and the plastic bag with lunch leftovers sitting along the river? It gets ripped apart by wildlife, then the fall and winter rains pick up the thousands of pieces of garbage left by summer visitors to the Russian River and it washes downstream to the ocean and litters our beaches. 

Trash has now reached every corner of the globe and has formed large floating garbage patches bigger than Texas. Trash destroys the beauty, health, and safety of our rivers. Many people disregard trash as a major environmental issue but with the discovery of yet another Texas sized garbage patch in the South Pacific last month confirms it is a major global environmental issue. Where does all that trash come from?

At least 80% of trash that ends up in our oceans and comes from our streets, cities and parking lots, look around you will see it before the rains sweep it into our ocean. Seemingly harmless items like plastic straws end up in snouts of sea lions and often lead to mortal injuries. Trash is not just ugly it injures and kills thousands of marine mammals and tens of thousands of birds.

Albatross Family Comparing AlbatrossesThe Albatross is a seabird with the largest wingspan of any bird up to 11.5 feet and is capable of traveling 10,000 miles in a single trip without landing! As you can see below they are majestic birds that live up to 60 years but plastic pollution threatens their existence because of the way they feed. They glide around for weeks picking up floating marine creatures and frequently consume the floating plastic in our oceans. The plastic fills up their stomachs, preventing any nutritious foods from being absorbed and they slowly starve to death as they are full of plastic. The images from Midway Island are haunting with beaches covered with albatross carcasses rotting away to reveal what caused their demise – plastic trash. It doesn’t have to be this way if we are more mindful of trash anywhere we see it, we can save the albatross and sea turtles by picking up trash before it gets into the ocean.

This is where YOU enter the picture to help change things for the better!

Volunteer for the 30th Anniversary RR Watershed Cleanup Sept 16th!

It’s hard to believe the annual Russian River Watershed Cleanup is 30 years old this year! The first official “Russian River Cleanup Day” was held in 1988 with members of the Sequoia Canoe Club and Sierra Club members cleaning up the river between Alexander Valley and Healdsburg. October 21, was officially designated as Russian River Cleanup Day by the County Board of Supervisors and the City of Healdsburg, which brought additional river aficionados out each year to clean up litter along the river prior to the winter rains. In 1993, the cleanup was moved to September and expanded to cover the river from Asti to Guerneville and link up with the California Coastal Cleanup. The deplorable condition of Steelhead Beach was evident and in January 1994, a huge community effort was made to clean up the beach. An abandoned bus, several vehicles, six (twenty yard) dumpsters of trash and over 400 tires were removed. The beach is now a jewel of our county park system and enjoyed by many river goers.

Last year 364 total registered volunteers: 130 in Mendocino, 264 in Sonoma collected 21,769 pounds of trash from over 89 miles of stream banks with 4,405 pounds diverted to recycling or reuse. Let’s beat last year’s totals!

There will be cleanup locations organized from Ukiah to Monte Rio. General information is available via the RRWCU website and registration is open at:

By volunteering and removing trash from our watershed you will not only be protecting our waterways, you will be shrinking the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the massive vortex of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean. 

This year we’ll be saluting the efforts of over 9,000 volunteers since 1988 and again working to make this the biggest cleanup event in the Russian River’s history.

Our local trash solution innovator – Clean River Alliance!

In 2014, Chris Brokate founded the Clean River Alliance (CRA). As an enthusiastic paddler and fan of the river, he had noticed the devastating impact of all the rubbish and debris that washed downstream and landed on the beaches and in the estuary after heavy rains. By providing leadership and organization to cleanup efforts, CRA has inspired enthusiastic support from a diverse group of citizens, businesses and public and private agencies in the pursuit of a pristine and beautiful watershed.

Late autumn and winter of 2015 brought about an endeavor to collect and dispose of the unwanted trash and items abandoned by the homeless living along the Russian River. Having no home also brings the issue of no resources to dispose of unwanted belongings and trash. An unexpected benefit of reaching out to the homeless communities, is their recruitment as volunteers in the cleanup effort. CRA volunteers hand out trash bags to local campers at the weekly Vet Connect Clean Day Project in Guerneville. There are scheduled pickups of trash that is collected and staged. Since this program started, over 30,000 pounds of garbage has been collected and delivered to the landfill.

By reaching out to all residents and educating them on the importance of a clean and healthy watershed, it has built an ever-growing community collaboration. From school kids, neighbors, to business groups, the education and training has empowered them to take direct action to keep their own towns, neighborhoods, parks and living spaces clean.

What can you do to reduce trash in the Russian River and its tributaries? 

  • Take away all trash from visits to the river. Even small items, like pop tops, and glass that can get broken, can be deadly or injurious to wildlife, children, and pets. Remember the river is “Ours to Protect”. Leave the river area cleaner than when you arrived.
  • Join Russian River Confluence partners, Russian Riverkeeperand Clean River Alliance for the 30th annual Russian River Watershed Cleanup on September 16th


For more information on CRA, or to talk trash, call Chris at (707) 322-8304 or visit

Russian River Watershed Cleanup Day ~ September 16, 2017

WANTED-Team Leaders (Organize a cleanup on your creek or in your neighborhood), Drivers and Haulers (Trucks and Trailers to take trash from cleanup sites to sorting areas), Help with registration.

Call for details. (707) 433-1958

VOLUNTEER-Registration is open at:


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