I have been trash paddling on the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers for the past two years. By trash paddling, I mean refusing to paddle by floating trash encountered along the way, provided there is room for it on or in my kayak.
A fellow paddler, Pat O'Brien said it best "this river will look a lot better without this Pepsi can floating in it". I remember him saying those words on a F.A.T. (friday after Thanksgiving paddle) a couple of years ago, as he plucked the empty can from the water and placed it under his deck bungee. His words stuck in my mind. So simple, so true, so relatively easy to do. A very good source of simple satisfaction in today's hectic and often frustrating world.
Each time I go out for a paddle, I make it a point to collect some of the trash seen floating or stuck behind logs and branches. One of my more rugged dry bags has been dedicated to the purpose and a paddling day is not considered a success if the bag stays empty.
I started slow, collecting only 94 pieces of trash in 2006. However, this past year, my total count was 898 empty containers of one kind or another from my local waters. On a typical paddle, I will first fill my dry bag which holds about 16 empty containers. Additional trash, if encountered, goes under the deck bungees immediately in front of me. In the event that a 'trash 'motherlode' is encountered, a plastic trash bag will be filled and stored in the rear hatch, provided there is a safe take-out nearby. Most trash is picked up while paddling upriver, as that is the safest. Trash stuck in a dangerous area is left for another day, as there is no point taking risks that are not necessary.
This past fall, my efforts were focused mainly on the Sudbury River between Egg Rock and Sherman's Bridge Road and the Concord River between Egg Rock and Ball's Hill. The water level in the Assabet was just a little too low during most of the fall. However, this past Saturday, the Assabet's water level was up and my trash patrol extended from Egg Rock to a large blowdown just below Damondale. My booty was 12 empty containers. One being a plastic container of outboard oil. Cap was on tight and there was still approximately a half quart of oil inside. This was sort of a bonus to get not only a plastic container but also the more potentially harmful oil that was in it.
My hope is that other paddlers will consider putting their deck bungees to good use and rescue a few empty containers from the waters they paddle. Then you can wear that trash proud and tell inquirers that your saving up for a 'Happy Meal'. Regards, Suasco Al