There's a Lot Less Trash in Lake Tahoe Now

It won't alter systemic problems in the lake, but it sure doesn't hurt
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
There's a Lot Less Trash in Lake Tahoe Now
   (Getty - MariuszBlach)

Lake Tahoe is now home to 25,000 fewer pounds of trash, thanks to Clean Up the Lake, a California nonprofit that recently finished clearing garbage to a depth of 25 feet along all 72 miles of the lake’s shores, per the Guardian. Over the course of a year, volunteers dedicated 81 days and completed 189 dives in the first effort of its kind. Although some litter reflects people’s “bad decisions,” group founder Colin West said most it accumulated due to bad luck. “You might find five or six beer cans in one area,” he told the Guardian, “But the sunglasses, the cellphones, the hats, the construction material—a lot of this has happened accidentally or from wind storms. No one is trying to lose a boat anchor.”

Boat anchors were a common find, indeed: divers recovered 127, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. At last count, they’d also found 4,527 beer cans, 468 tennis and golf balls, and 170 tires, not to mention boat engines, a lamppost, and a diamond ring. Most materials were sent for recycling or to landfills, but some will be incorporated in a sculpture at Tahoe South Events Center. The public is invited to provide input on the sculpture’s theme. The SF Chronicle noted the discovery of sex toys and a boom box, and it also says the haul “heightened awareness of discarded construction debris,” motivating local authorities to tighten dumping restrictions.

Ultimately, increased awareness was the real goal. The EPA says Lake Tahoe’s water quality has declined significantly in recent decades due to development and deforestation, plus climate change. Although a litter pickup will not alter the lake’s systemic issues, it may at least raise public awareness, the group hopes. Per the Chronicle, they will carry their work to other Sierra lakes in the near future. (Read more Lake Tahoe stories.)

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