Pandemic Increases Litter Around Lady Bird Lake
Mar 24, 2022

Pandemic Increases Litter Around Lady Bird Lake

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas — Participation in environmental initiatives like Clean Lady Bird Lake decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With restrictions easing, Keep Austin Beautiful is ramping up to restart its initiatives as normal.

Although there were rules about how many could be in a group at once, Keep Austin Beautiful circumvented restrictions by providing kits to volunteers to get out and clean around the lake without having to gather in groups.

Even with those efforts, event coordinator Trinity Surles said people called and complained about seeing more trash around the lake.

“We were getting calls every day about the litter on our trails and in the community,” Surles said.

The Austin Watershed Protection Agency is a city agency with a variety of programs, including a Clean Lady Bird Lake crew. Its crew is out on the lake four days a week, but division manager John Beachy said initiatives like Keep Austin Beautiful are important to the success of a clean lake.

“Keep Austin Beautiful is kind of like a work force multiplier. When we have these large-scale events, it can really bring in the community and really amplify the work that we’re able to do to get a lot more trash in a short timeframe,” Beachy said.

“Lady Bird Lake is a general reservoir that is 420 surface acres and has an urban watersheds drainage area, about 58 square miles. And so a lot of Austin drains into this location and carries the trash with it.”

 While these initiatives were reduced, more people gathered in the outdoor spaces which led to more trash in those areas.

“Previous to the pandemic, obviously, we weren’t seeing masks or anything in our waterways, and that’s a new a new thing that we do notice,” Beachy said.

Trash floats along the shore of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Sam Stark, Reporting Texas TV)

“People were leaving their bottles or leaving their masks. People weren’t really thinking what they were leaving behind when they were leaving that space,” Surles said.

The first in-person Keep Austin Beautiful Day since the initial lockdown in March 2020 will be Saturday, April 9, and will include a Lady Bird Lake cleanup. There was a fundraiser last month.

“It’s not just our volunteer events that make a difference it’s the education within the community. What we really want to do is not just recruit volunteers to help us but we want to educate the community so they can make better daily choice,” Surles said.

Visit the Keep Austin Beautiful website if you are interested in participating in the cleanup event.