Everything including the kitchen sink … collectively weighing nearly 15 tons! That’s what more than 1,200 Raritan Headwaters’ volunteers removed from the banks of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and reservoirs during our 34th annual Stream Cleanup this spring.

In just three hours, volunteers picked up an incredible 29,610 pounds of trash, junk and recyclables. This enormous effort makes a huge impact on the health of streams and vital drinking water supplies in the upper Raritan River watershed – not to mention the beauty of this lovely part of New Jersey.

Volunteers at the Chester Springs Mall site

We can’t thank our volunteers enough. Without so many people donating their time and muscle, a cleanup of this size could not have happened. Our volunteers included families, individuals, and groups from schools, churches, scout troops, businesses, environmental commissions, and other civic organizations. The April 20 event cleaned up over 40 miles of stream within the watershed region, which encompasses all or part of 38 municipalities in Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties.

The most common items picked up were plastic bottles, plastic food wrappers, aluminum cans, plastic bags, cigarette butts and glass bottles. But volunteers also discovered plenty of curious items, including a kitchen sink, part of a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and lights, a pregnancy test (negative), wicker furniture, a king-size mattress box spring, a porta john, a parking meter, a vintage desktop computer, a wood stove and multiple bicycles. The haul also included a considerable amount of construction debris like carpeting, toilets, sinks, wooden pallets, and plastic drums, as well as numerous car and truck tires and auto parts. One alarming find was an unopened bag of pesticides, which could have poisoned wildlife had it leaked into a stream.

Unfortunately, there are still people who illegally dump unwanted materials into the nearest river or stream, with no regard to the danger to wildlife and human health. The Upper Raritan River watershed is a source of drinking water for 1.8 million New Jersey homes and businesses, both in the watershed and downstream. What’s more, any plastic trash that washes into local streams can eventually make its way into Raritan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, where it poses a threat to marine life.

Here are the totals of the most common items removed during the cleanup:

· 7,105 plastic bottles

· 5,667 plastic wrappers

· 5,000 aluminum cans

· 3,887 plastic bags

· 3,579 cigarette butts

· 3,136 glass bottles

· 2,479 plastic caps

· 2,292 drink cups/lids

Believe it or not, we count every item picked up so that we can track trends from year to year. We recycle everything that can be recycled, and properly dispose of the rest!