Volunteers remove nearly 1,800 pounds of trash at Great Salt Lake

Posted at 4:24 PM, Sep 20, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Every September people from all over the world gather on beaches, riverbanks, and lake shores to take part in an international coastal cleanup.

Saturday, a few dozen volunteers gathered on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake for some much need maintenance.

Bottle by bottle, bag by bag, volunteers worked to clean the south shore of the Great Salt Lake Saturday.

The International Coastal Cleanup is the world's largest single-day volunteer effort to clean up our beaches, lakes and rivers.

Friends of The Great Salt Lake partnered with the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands, The Living Planet Aquarium, Compass Minerals International, Great Salt Lake Institute and The Nature Conservancy to clean up the Great Salt Lake shoreline at Black Rock Beach and Lee Creek.

“This is just one truck load; it will probably be the first of 10 or 15 we take today,” said Janessa Edwards with Friends of the Great Salt Lake.

The non-profit Friends of the Great Salt Lake is a local group that works to preserve the Great Salt Lake and educate people on its importance.

“It provides an outdoor classroom for us, it provides our state community with billions of dollars of income every year, and so we do big events like this to come out and clean up our shorelines,” Edwards said.

More than 50 local volunteers came out to help, including some from the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.

"There's several ecosystems the Great Salt Lake supports," said Sean Hopewell, who is the volunteer services manager for the aquarium. "So being able to clean the trash along these waterways help support the water fowl, brine shrimp, and the salt industry that's really important to our community."

The trash being collected isn’t just glass bottles and empty potato chip bags. Last year, volunteers pulled a full-sized couch from the waters and this year they retrieved an entire piano.

“TV monitors, baby shoes, we’ve found tires, we’ve found this giant blanket that has probably been sitting out there for years," Edwards said. "You can tell by the amount of salt that builds up on these things how long they’ve been sitting out there. It’s a beautiful place and a lot of times we see these weird abnormalities of trash out here and a lot of time people come out for photo shoots and they use the land for some cool inspired project, but they don’t clean up after themselves."

By the end of the cleanup, volunteers had collected nearly 1,800 pounds of trash, which is surprising considering these are state lands--meaning it’s illegal to dump here.

“It’s tough for us to come out here and see the visible evidence that our residents have about this lake, and we try to conquer that with education and doing events like this,” Edwards said.

Every piece of trash volunteers find will be tracked and included in an annual index of global marine debris that will be released in 2015.