Baker Lake cleanup latest in local activities focused on litter, marine debris

October 5, 2018

BAKER LAKE — A group of about 30 people spent Saturday collecting trash from Baker Lake and from campgrounds on its banks.

North Sound Baykeeper Eleanor Hines said the group collected hundreds of pounds of trash that was most likely left behind by campers over the summer.

Most of it was food packaging such as beer bottles and snack bar wrappers, as well as an abundance of plastic materials.

The group also found evidence of toilet paper and feces in an area upstream of the lake, along with large quantities of drink containers making their way from there downstream toward the lake, Hines said.

Cleaning up Baker Lake has been a weekend event organized for several years by North Sound Baykeeper and the Sierra Club’s Mt. Baker Group.

This year, the North Cascades Institute and Ken Campbell of the Ikkatsu Project offered talks as part of the event.

Campbell, who has made it his mission to raise awareness about the way marine debris gets dispersed in the world’s oceans, discussed the growing global issue and showcased a boat he made of recovered marine debris.

The issue of litter getting into waters such as streams, lakes and the world’s oceans is an increasing issue of global concern.

Litter has led to garbage patches in the Pacific and other oceans, microplastics and chemicals in water sources, and the deaths of birds and other wildlife that get entangled in or mistakenly eat trash they cannot digest, according to various federal agencies.

Several efforts are underway in Skagit County to raise awareness of the issue and to combat it.

Several organizations recently completed a beach cleanup and pilot test of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency protocol for identifying recovered trash and where it may have come from.

The local nonprofit Friends of Skagit Beaches, with the help of Salish Sea Stewards volunteers, has a portable information station about marine debris and microplastics that it displays at area beaches and community events.

The grassroots Skagit Bag BANdwagon is encouraging cities and towns in Skagit County to ban the use of plastic bags for retail sales. After hearing from the group in June, La Conner became the first in the county to pass a ban.

And in the spring of 2014, Campbell paddled a kayak he made of plastic bottles 150 miles through Washington’s marine waters, including a stop at Deception Pass State Park.

The Baker Lake cleanup this year will contribute to a growing collection of data about the problem of litter in water and on shoreline areas.

Hines said the trash is being categorized using the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup protocol as part of an effort by the regional Puget Soundkeeper Alliance to better understand and convey to the public what materials are being found on shorelines.

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