More than two thousand volunteers combed the shoreline of the region's various waterways Saturday morning, collecting trash that has accumulated over the winter.
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper expected this year's Spring Shoreline Sweep would collect 20 tons of trash. The volunteers were spread out at 60 sites -- from the Lake Erie shoreline to Scajaquada Creek and the Niagara River.
Waterkeeper spokesperson Jennifer Fee says we're all responsible for the trash that's collected.
"The trash comes from all of us," Fee said. "Most of what we pick up during the sweep is plastic -- water bottles, straws and bags. These are things that will make their way into our creeks, streams and rivers."
If left uncollected, Fee said all that trash would end up in the Great Lakes.
"More than 22 million pounds of plastic pollution ends up in the Great Lakes every year," Fee said. "That's a real hazard to wildlife and our drinking water."
Among the unusual items retrieved in last year's year sweep was a complete living room set from the shore of Scajaquada Creek.
Fee said Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper tries to recycle much of the waste that is collected.
"We take all the things that are recyclable and send them to recycling. We send things that are compostable and send them to a composting facility," Fee said. "We try to keep at a minimum the things we send to a landfill."
Fee said the volunteers come from all over the region. Some were employees of Waterkeeper's corporate partner Labatt USA. Others were individual families with parents teaching their children the importance of caring for the environment.
Fee said 70 captains are trained on how to safely collect trash. The captains then work with the volunteers who are equipped with gloves and grabbing devices.