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News & Events

Litter on the Bayou

Written by Dylan Manshack, Communications Coordinator for KTB

Last month, Keep Texas Beautiful (KTB), in collaboration with Texans for Clean Water and Indorama Ventures, hosted a boat tour of the Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas to witness first-hand the impact of litter on the waterway. Executive Director of KTB, Suzanne Kho, and KTB Board President, Tony Arce, joined Congressman Randy Weber, representatives from Rep. Brian Babin and Rep. Sylvia Garcia's offices, Maia Corbitt and Mike Garver of Texans For Clean Water, and representatives from the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and the Port of Houston on the tour.

(Left to right: Mike Garver, US Rep. Randy Weber, Suzanne Kho, and Tony Arce).

Trash finding its way into the bayou has become a major problem in the City of Houston. According to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, between 700 and 900 bags of trash are pulled out of the Buffalo Bayou every week. The litter in our waterways also poses a threat to coastal areas downstream as the trash eventually makes its way to the ocean.

One litter-cleaning tool KTB got to see in action during the tour was the BayouVac. Designed by Mike Garver, the BayouVac acts as a litter-sucking boat to clean waterways facing heavy pollution like the Buffalo Bayou. As impressive as this boat is, it will not be able to clean our waterways alone. To help prevent the flow of litter into Texas waterways, during this last legislative session, KTB endorsed The Texas Clean and Healthy initiative, an innovative solution to the litter problem.

Trash in our waterways not only threatens Texas ecosystems, contaminates our food and water supplies, and causes severe storm water issues, but it also is extremely expensive for cities around Texas to manage.

According to a 2017 study, nine major cities in Texas (El Paso, Fort Worth, Midland, San Antonio, Austin, Lufkin, Houston, Corpus Christi, and Laredo) collectively spend more than $50 million in taxpayer dollars annually on their litter and illegal dumping problems, and these cities only represent around 25 percent of the state's population.

In alignment with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) strategic plan, Keep Texas Beautiful is implementing a "Trash Free Waters Program" that will leverage existing partnerships with Texas communities in the Gulf of Mexico Watershed to create benchmark programs for litter cleanup and prevention.

Tracking and analyzing this litter is important to help organizations and advocates build solutions that prevent litter in the first place, leading to reduced cleanup costs by taxpayers. Recognizing this, Keep Texas Beautiful, Black Cat GIS and HARC announced the launch of the first-ever Texas Litter Database earlier this year, a project funded by The Garver Black Hilyard Family Foundation. Accessible through any smart device or computer, this online tool will enable municipal employees, volunteers, and others to better track and analyze litter collected during cleanups.

Be sure to stay up-to-date with KTB's other initiatives around the state as we work to Keep Texas Beautiful and keep Texans safe.

Mike Garver's BayouVac out on the water.


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