Bay Area musician Scott Chowning is on a mission to clean up the Bay, and his current goal is to collect one ton of trash in 2021.
“I’ve always been passionate about the natural world and how we humans are negatively affecting it,” Scott said. “When we face the fact that 8.3 million tons of plastic alone are discarded into our oceans every year, it’s easy to feel pretty helpless.”
With his dad being a sailor, Scott grew up around boats and would spend a lot of time sailing dinghies, as well as embarking on a few ocean voyages. These days he sails his own Catalina 27, Evening Star, which he has commissioned to help him collect the trash. “I was struck by how much debris and trash existed right in the Bay and Alameda Estuary, so I began to pull trash from the waterways using just a net. Simultaneously, I had learned about a DIY microplastics trawler called LADI [Low-tech Aquatic Debris Instrument, pronounced “lady”], which I built and began to drag behind my boat.”
“I had been collecting trash on my own during the end of 2020, but this project officially began in the beginning of 2021,” Scott said.
“Every time I was out either collecting with a net or dragging the trawler, other sailors would comment, ask questions, and show interest in what I was doing. Due to the enthusiasm displayed by others, I began to conceive of a grander goal/project, finally landing on the ‘1 ton in 2021.'”
What began as a solo effort to clean up the Bay has now grown into a larger-scale project with an official name and a website — Trash Boats: 1 Ton in 2021. “I think it’s funny to say and it also describes the mission pretty clearly.”
After a collection run, Scott weighs his catch with a digital hanging scale and takes it to the marina dumpsters, where he separates the recyclables. “I’ve collected about 200 pounds so far, but am looking forward to more group efforts once things open up a bit more.”
Right now ‘Trash Boats: 1 Ton in 2021’ doesn’t have any official sponsorship, but Scott is hoping to gain the support of local marinas, yacht clubs and other organizations in the future. When you consider the effect microplastics are believed to have on our oceans, and ultimately all living creatures (us included), it stands to reason that Scott’s mission is one we could all get behind.
Incidentally, Encinal Yacht Club is holding their third annual Earth Day Estuary Clean-Up Day this Saturday, which means it’s on tomorrow!