East River Trawling

Trawling destination: East River Parkway


We trawled at a site right next to the river, just south of Pier 35.

We trawled at a site right next to the river, just south of Pier 35.

80% of marine debris starts in rivers and local waterways. (To read an important scientifc, peer-reviewed article on this matter go here.) Trash is either dumped into rivers due to a lack of better waste management, or, as in the case of NYC, trash winds up in the Hudson or the East river because of a combination of rampant littering and strong storm events that carry litter to the rivers.

On another perfect summer day we went to the East River promenade to test how the hardware and 3-D printed trawl held up when trawling from the side of a river. On the way we immediately saw evidence of larger pieces of trash that will eventually be broken down by water movement and sunlight radiation into microplastics. Below, a balloon and broken bits of styrofoam:


We started with the 3D trawl and discovered it did not perform well in this setting because there wasn’t a strong enough current to keep the mouth open towards the river current. It bobbed up towards the sky instead:

The hardware trawl did a little better when properly manipulated by the rope. But often ended up wanting to hug the side of the river.

This expedition provided some fuel for brainstorming new trawls in all different kinds of settings. Next, we will be designing a dangle trawl for low bridges with a river or creek flowing underneath. For testing purpose for the dangle trawl, we will use the infamous Gowanus Canal. So stay tuned for that test…


On this expedition we did not find anything. All the major bits of plastic we saw were farther out towards the middle of the river. The pieces were big (lots of packaging and plastic bags) but our trawls, as designed, weren't able to trawl so far away from the edge.