FLEMINGTON, NJ – The one-day annual Stream Cleanup organized by Raritan Headwaters Association removed 18 tons of trash, litter and recyclables from almost 80 miles of river, stream and lakefront, the group reports.

Cleanup volunteers included individuals, families, scout troops, churches, businesses, civic groups, schools and environmental commissions.

More than 1,700 volunteers of all ages fanned out from 46 sites in the upper Raritan River watershed in Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris counties on April 13.

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The day’s haul included 9,133 plastic bottles, 3,039 plastic bags and 53 car and truck tires.

Cleanup coordinator Jeff Geist said unusual items included a kitchen sink, a mannequin, a massage table, several televisions, a child’s riding Jeep, bicycles, a rusted meat grinder, a PlayStation console and a couch.

“This was our best year yet, and we have our fantastic volunteers to thank,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of Bedminster-based Raritan Headwaters. “From Cub Scouts to local businesses, everyone put tremendous energy and enthusiasm into the cleanup … In one morning, we logged over 5,000 volunteer hours.”

The cleanup up in the 470-square-mile headwaters region improves water quality downstream, all the way to where the Raritan River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, Ehrenclou said.

“If left in rivers, streams and lakes, plastics can cause serious problems,” said Ehrenclou. Fish and marine mammals often mistake plastic litter for food, she noted, and can die from ingesting them.

Plastic that weathers too long, breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming “microplastics” – an emerging threat to both wildlife and human health.

“By collecting plastic bottles, bags, straws and other objects during the Stream Cleanup, we’re preventing them from becoming pollution,” said Ehrenclou.

“The Raritan River is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million New Jersey homes and businesses,” she said. “Every piece of trash and litter we pick up helps keep that water clean and safe.”

In Hunterdon, the cleanup included sites in Alexandria, Bethlehem, Califon, Clinton, Clinton Township, Delaware Township, Frenchtown, Glen Gardner, Flemington, High Bridge, Kingwood, Lebanon Township, Raritan Township, Readington, Tewksbury and Union Township.

In Somerset County, volunteers cleaned up sites in Bedminster, Bernardsville, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Far Hills, Franklin Township, Hillsborough and Peapack-Gladstone.

In Morris County, the cleanup effort included sites in Chester Borough, Chester Township, Mendham Borough, Mendham Township, Mine Hill, Mount Olive, Randolph, Roxbury and Washington Township.