Chesapeake Bay Trash Trawl

In September 2015, Trash Free Maryland conducted 13 days of citizen-science research on
the Chesapeake Bay, collecting 60 water samples to assess for plastic pollution. These samples, along with additional chunks of plastic and 60 fish specimens, are currently undergoing laboratory analysis to yield an estimate of the concentration of microplastic pollution in the Bay, levels of chemical contamination of the plastic from the ambient water, and numbers of fish consuming plastic.

All 60 water samples contained plastic.


Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun watches Julie Lawson process a Trash Trawl sample (September 2016. Photo: Trash Free Maryland)

This is the largest study to date of plastic pollution in the Chesapeake, and we hope to use the data to educate more people about the problem and spur policy changes to address it.

Anecdotally, we observed significant contamination of submerged aquatic vegetation by microplastics, leading to discussions with the Chesapeake Bay Program and local governments about designating trash and plastic as a toxic contaminant in restoration strategies.

You can read more about the project here.

Sign up for our email list and follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter) to learn the results as soon as we have them.

We are also looking for opportunities to talk to the public about the project (and show off lots of jars of samples). If your group would like to host an event, please email Julie.