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Earth Institute Research Projects

Stopping Trash Where it Starts

Lead PI: Dr. Ester Fuchs , Professor Patricia J. Culligan

Unit Affiliation: Columbia Engineering

January 2016 - December 2017
Inactive
North America ; New York City, NY ; New York ; New York - New Jersey Harbor
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The Capstone workshop team developed a survey protocol to obtain detailed information on the origins of floatable trash in selected city streets. The purpose is to reduce floatable trash in NYC before it enters the waterways. The protocol will be used to conduct a street litter survey in selected areas in NYC. To develop the protocol, students reviewed similar protocols used other cities. Students then developed and tested the protocol to better characterize local sources of floatable debris to the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary. The tool distinguished the types of garbage, the source of the litter (indiviudal, residential or industrial), location, and the site-specific conditions where the trash ends up. The goal was to identify the composition and source of litter in different parts of the city. The protocol will be used both by DEP staff and non-expert “citizen scientists,” such as student and volunteers. This data collection effort will inform policies that will ultimately produce the most effective source reduction actions, including voluntary source control, preventative and reactive policy options, and targeted public outreach and education activities.