Trash trap data informs ECU PhD student’s dissertation

Environmental, Litter-Free Rivers, Sound Rivers, Stormwater Issues, Stormwater Runoff, Tar-Pamlico Watershed, Volunteer, Volunteers, Water Quality

Posted on June 6th, 2024

Tuesday held another Greenville trash trap cleanout day for Sound Rivers staff.

Joined by volunteer Rebecca Reibel, Volunteer Coordinator Emily Fritz, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman and water-quality intern Tierney Reardon donned waders and emptied the Greens Mill Run trash trap of the usual plastic bottles and Styrofoam, in addition to some unique finds: a lighter, icing container and a mini-basketball.

“We were jokingly trying to connect every piece of trash we found to someone’s Memorial Day party,” Katey said. “There were lots of beer cans and Memorial Day-ish things in the trap.”

The Greenville trash trap was full of trash … and Styrofoam that had broken down into beads.

Sound Rivers’ volunteer Rebecca is a PhD student in East Carolina University’s Department of Coastal Studies, with research interests in geology, coastal morphology, sea level rise and urbanization. Her dissertation delves into urban litter — what types of trash end up in local waterways — and she is employing data from the Greensmill Run trash trap. Rebecca’s pup, Riley, is also a trash trap volunteer — the BEST trash trap volunteer, as you can see from the video below.

The Greens Mill Run trash trap is the fifth installed on small waterways in the Neuse & Tar-Pamlico, as part of Sound Rivers’ Litter-Free Rivers program. Other trash traps are located on Jack’s Creek in Washington, Duffyfield Canal in New Bern, Little Rock Creek in Raleigh and Adkin Branch in Kinston. The City of Raleigh is planning to partner with Sound Rivers and The Great Raleigh Cleanup for another two traps in the Raleigh area, and a potential third new trap will be located in Tarboro.

Greens Mill Run is a tributary of the Tar River; the trash trap is located on a stretch of the creek in Greensprings Park.

If you or your group would like to volunteer for a trash trap cleanout, we’d love to have your help! Email Emily at to set it up.

A full trash trap on Greens Mill Run, a tributary of the Tar River in Greenville.
A newly emptied trash trap on Greens Mill Run.

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