Watershed specialists Carlos Rich, top, and Dawayne Garnett from Groundwork Anacostia River D.C. work to empty a Bandalong Litter Trap at Kenilworth Park in northeast Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1, 2014. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

The Anacostia River flows through highly developed Washington, D.C., and Maryland, empties into the Potomac River, and ultimately ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. Because of that, it plays a role in the overall health of the Bay.

But litter along the river has become an increasing concern for the surrounding environment and future of the Anacostia as a whole. Although it has been known to some as the “Forgotten River,” recent clean-up efforts have shined a beacon of hope on the future of the Anacostia.

One organization plowing ahead in these restoration efforts is Groundwork Anacostia River D.C. (GWARDC) using an innovative solution: the Bandalong Litter Trap. This device—the first of its kind to be introduced in the Western Hemisphere—uses the water’s current to collect litter inside a trap before it moves further downstream. It is non-invasive and provides no disruption to birds and aquatic life.

The litter trap was installed in Watts Branch Creek, a tributary to the Anacostia in Kenilworth Park, to address the excess amount of trash seeping into the river. It was installed in hopes of having an overall positive impact on the health of the river and the restoration efforts in place. The collected trash provides data on the types of litter in the river and can inform new ideas for reducing the most common types of trash entering the waterway.

Because the litter trap operates in a high-profile location, GWARDC hopes that it will encourage diverse communities along the Anacostia to interact with each other and the river.

The trap is funded by the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) through the District's "bag law," a $0.05 fee on single-use plastic bags. DOEE also contracts with the Anacostia Watershed Society to manage three other traps.

Due to the traps' success, they are now being replicated outside of D.C. in nearby Prince George’s County, Maryland, where the county’s Department of the Environment and Anacostia Riverkeeper teamed up to install one in the City of Mount Rainier.

Through innovative solutions, organizations like GWARDC can help create new stewards and inspire them to secure the future of forgotten streams and rivers.

Want to help keep the forgotten stream and rivers alive? Get involved with a group near you.

Update: This article has been edited to reflect DOEE's and Anacostia Watershed Society's involvement with the litter traps.

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