A massive cleanup effort of the 72-mile Lake Tahoe shoreline concluded last week with around 25,000 pounds of waste being removed since last May, according to the Associated Press. Meticulous sorting of the types of litter as well as logging GPS locations where they were found is set to paint a picture surrounding where the garbage is coming from and what harm it does to the lake.
Clean Up The Lake, the group behind the effort, reported finding mainly bottles, tires, glasses, and fishing gear, though some unique objects, like possible shipwreck debris, a diamond ring, and, funnily enough, “no littering” signs, were found along side the more common trash.
If the plastics remained at the bottom of the lake, they would have slowly broken down into microplastics, something scientists are still studying to determine how harmful they are to humans.
“If left in place, the ongoing degradation of submerged litter, particularly plastic and rubber, will continue to slowly release microplastics and leachates into Lake Tahoe’s azure waters.” – Zoe Harrold, biochemist and lead author of Clean Up The Lake’s 2021 Report
Tahoe’s population peaks around 300,000 people today, and with the 1960 Winter Olympics, the population rapidly expanded from around 10,000 to 50,000 in the winter and 90,000 in the summer in the span of 20 years, contributing to the pollution of Lake Tahoe.
Clean Up The Lake plans to continue the good work and expand to other lakes throughout Sierra while continuing deeper into Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Fund, which helped to raise money for the fund, is planning to commission a sculpture to be built from the garbage.
Image Credit: Amelia Gotham on Facebook