Lake Champlain clean-up group uses trash to send message

Published: Sep. 23, 2023 at 10:30 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) -Growing up among fishermen in Maine, Willow Hogan saw the effects of pollution from a young age.

Now a law student in Vermont, she’s vowed to do something about it.

“I’ve always been an advocate for marine debris cleanup and plastic cleanups of all kind,” Hogan explains. “I’m currently in law school to hopefully go into politics and policy to stop this kind of thing.”

Hogan joined a rubber glove-clad cleanup crew on Lake Champlain Saturday morning.

They walked along the Burlington waterfront, filling trash bags with debris.

Water cleanup group Rozalia Project hosted the event. Executive Director Ashley Sullivan says cleanups help people recognize the impact of their waste.

“This is an opportunity for people to see our debris that ends up in the natural environment and actually do something about it,” Sullivan says.

When their bags were full, the cleanup crew traveled up the hill to sort debris on Church Street.

Volunteers say cigarette butts, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and paper products were some of the biggest culprits of the pickup today.

On a brighter note, volunteers found little to no plastic shopping bags, foam takeout boxes and plastic straws.

Environmental advocates like Julie Silverman with Conservation Law Foundation will use this data to push for policy changes.

“There are a lot of different partnerships and organizations and research happening related to this debris,” Silverman says.

She’s currently working to regulate the use of Styrofoam in docks, which can break down over time and harm lake wildlife and people.

For those who missed the cleanup, Rozalia Project has an app and data cards so you can share debris data from waterways near you.