Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Trash cleanup at Tahoe beaches provides lessons for future

Lake Tahoe

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

In this Aug. 20, 2019, file photo, Freya Mayo, left, and her sister Evie, of London, England, try out a paddle board on Lake Tahoe near South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

INCLINE VILLAGE — The sixth annual Labor Day beach cleanup at Lake Tahoe did more than just remove 168 pounds (76 kilograms) of trash from the shoreline.

It's also apparently provided some clues to help design new strategies to keep the cigarette butts and other garbage from ending up there in the first place.

"We use data that we collect for solutions," said Maroliee Movius, the League to Save Lake Tahoe's community engagement manager.

Sixty-five volunteers removed 2,751 pieces of single-use plastic and 1,997 cigarette butts from Kings Beach near the California-Nevada line on Labor Day.

"Plastics are the top trash that we find," Movius told the Sierra Sun . "They don't biodegrade. They break down to smaller and smaller pieces in the sun, and they are very toxic in this state and look like food to wildlife.

"So, it's very important that we pick up this micro-trash because it is the most toxic state that plastics can be in," she said.

Since the League to Save Lake Tahoe began hosting beach cleanups in 2014, more than 5,000 volunteers have removed nearly 35,000 pounds (15,875 kilograms) of trash, including more than 125,000 large and small plastic pieces and 110,000 cigarette butts. In past years the annual Labor Day cleanups have been held at Lakeside Beach, Nevada Beach and Commons Beach.

"The cigarette canister program that has been launched this year is one solution in which we can remove the top trash found in Tahoe and have them properly disposed of," Movius said.

At Sand Harbor, the League to Save Lake Tahoe recently emptied nine cigarette butt disposal canisters to assess how they've been working after being installed a month prior.  The team found more than 2,400 cigarette butts inside the containers.

The league eventually plans to install 250 canisters around the lake as part of a joint program with the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association.

Data from past beach cleanup also provided support for efforts that resulted in plastic bag bans in South Lake Tahoe, California.

"It's really great to see how data can be used for solutions that are even more overarching than cleanups," Movius said.