Recently KIALOA 'Elele, Brent Allen, moved from the ocean waters of Monterey Bay. There he was instrumental in organizing the community to protest the high number of cruise ships that were allowed to come into the Marine Sanctuary in Monterey Bay. Recently Brent has moved back to his home state of Oklahoma where he once again is motivating and coordinating people to make a difference in cleaning up local waters.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation …
OKLAHOMA CITY August 5, 2020 – RIVERSPORT is launching a new collaborative initiative focused on solving the problem of litter and debris along the Oklahoma River.
“We are constantly dealing with the trash that washes down the river every time it rains,” explained Mike Knopp, executive director. “Whatever is trash is thrown out a car window on the highway or dropped on the ground in a park or neighborhood often ends up in a river.”
“Our new RIVERSPORT River Protectors initiative has two goals: remove the existing trash and stop the flow of it coming down the river.”
RIVERSPORT is partnering with OKC Beautiful to complete a series of clean-up events over the next few weeks and is inviting volunteers to join the effort.
RIVERSPORT Lifestyle Manager Brent Allen is leading the project. “We are looking for either individuals or groups to help pick up and catalogue the trash along the river.”
The North Canadian River travels from Colorado through New Mexico into the Texas Panhandle and on to what eventually becomes the Oklahoma River.
"When it rains, trash from upstream is washed down and gets trapped here along our docks,” Allen said. “We can do temporary clean ups, but we really need to create that cultural shift that drives lasting change. As consumers, we have to get away from Styrofoam and single-use plastics or it will be like Groundhog Day – the trash will keep coming and we’ll be doing the same thing over and over.”
A unique feature of RIVERSPORT’s new River Protector initiative is the idea of cataloging the trash to define the scope and source of the problem.
Using the free Litterati app (available for Android and OS at https://www.litterati.org/), Allen and his volunteers have retrieved and catalogued over 15,000 pieces of trash over the past six weeks. The two most common forms of trash found in the river are single-use plastics such as water and soda bottles, and Styrofoam cups, plates, and to-go containers.
"The Litterati app allows us to photograph and tag trash with a GPS locator so we can work on data-driven solutions,” Allen said.
"We have to move away from these single-use items that once created, are on this planet forever,” Allen said. “In the short term, they are killing fish, birds and sea creatures. Long term, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces with micro-plastics making their way into our oceans and our bodies. As Styrofoam degrades, it releases toxic chemicals.”
"It doesn’t have to be this way. We can have the convenience, but replace plastic and Styrofoam with products that are biodegradable or compostable,” Allen points out. “Today we have lots of options.”
"We need volunteers to help pick up the trash, but we also need people to ask their restaurants and retailers to offer more eco-friendly alternatives than Styrofoam and plastic,” Allen said. “We understand it’s a process. RIVERSPORT is working to get there just like everyone else. It’s a journey that begins with that first step."
Volunteering to help
Litter pick-up supplies including grabbers, buckets, nets for smaller items, biohazard containers, and coffee bean bags (rather than plastic bags) are provided via donations from Lowes and Eôte’ Coffee.
Groups interested in participating in a planned clean-up event can contact OKC Beautiful at (405) 525-8822 to learn more. Individuals can participate using the Litterati app. Short training sessions are held Mondays and Wednesdays, 5–5:30 p.m., with a brief river clean up following. Sign-up is available at riversportokc.org/riverprotectors or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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