FISHERS LANDING, N.Y. (WWTI) — Friday celebrated the 51st anniversary of Earth Day and to celebrate, volunteers gathered on the shores of the st. Lawrence River.

This was at local organization Save The River’s first Trash-Free River cleanup of the year. This cleanup included staff members from Save The River as well as local volunteers.

The event was ultimately a kickoff for the cleanup series Save Ther River will lead this summer, continuing the organization’s effort to rid the River of trash.

These cleanups first began in the fall of 2020 in Clayton and have previously filled garbage trucks full of waste found along the shorelines and in the water.

“We’ve been able to go from Cape Vincent down to Chippewa Bay,” Save The River Executive Director John Peach said. “We’ve already had over 200 volunteers working on this program and we’ve taken out literally tons of trash.”

Like past cleanups, volunteers on Earth Day found items ranging in size, including common household and outdoor recreational items. However, emphasis was on the smaller findings such as fragments of plastic and Polystyrene products.

Peach has previously said that these findings are indicative of severe plastic pollution in the St. Lawrence River.

“The thing that concerns me the most is the plastics, the polystyrene, the small plastic pieces,” Peach warned. “They’re all breaking down into microplastics. Our beaches aren’t sand anymore. They’re a mixture of sand and plastic.”

With hopes that these beaches can be enjoyed for years to come, the organization added these cleanups serve as a resource to educate youth to be the next generation of environmental stewards.

“Cleanups like this are really important because they are a tool that you use to start people to think about how much waste is in the system,” Save The River Assistant Director Lauren Eggleston shared. “How much litter is in the system, and then take that forward and look at how you can reduce your own impact.”

This was an opinion shared by Peach as well as Volunteer Anthony Augliano who brought his son to the cleanup on Earth Day.

“We’ve, didn’t a few of these [cleanups] last year,” Augliano shared. “I grew up on the river and I want [my kids] to grow up on the river and love it the way that I loved it. So carrying on the legacy.”

“Hopefully the children and the grandchildren are the future stewards of the river,” Peach added. “And they’re the ones that need to learn about the pollution.”

Save The River will continue to host Trash-Free River cleanups throughout the summer 2022 season. A full list of events and volunteer opportunities can be found on the ogranizations website.