Urban creeks, streams and rivers have become an unfortunate destination for trash pollution. Within an urban watershed trash pollution is harmful to fish, wildlife, public health, contributes to microplastic proliferation, and aesthetically tarnishes an otherwise unscathed ecosystem. With lots of attention focused on trash in marine and coastal ecosystems, this study aims to contribute to the growing research on inland urban watersheds and their involvement. This study highlights issues associated with trash pollution, and investigates the associated vectors, origins, behaviors, and contributing factors that create trash ladened urban watersheds. Datasets and site surveys from repeated trash cleanups in three creekside sites along the Salado Creek Watershed (US-1, MS-2, and LS-3) in Central Texas were analyzed to quantify volumes of specific trash categories and determine their likely origins. This analysis showed that quantitatively, plastic (i.e., bottles, toys, single use items, packaging and miscellaneous scrap) made up a majority (30%) of the trash found throughout the sites. Visual analysis of the Salado Creek Watershed sites yielded four main origins: intentional dumping, encampments, pedestrian/motorist right-of-way, and construction. Given the sites’ proximity to the creek, stormwater flows and past flood events were the main vector. Additionally, with the frequency of encampments throughout the area of study, encampments were also considered a vector. This study also collected surveys and interviews with the general public to assess awareness of trash pollution and shine a light on behaviors that contribute to its spread.
Hamilton, John D., "Trashed: A Review of Anthropogenic Litter in an Urban Watershed" (2023). Water Resources Science and Technology Theses and Graduate Research Reports. 6.