More than 300 volunteers, an eight-person dive team, and one beach-cleaning robot spread out Tuesday to remove 3,450 pounds of trash left over from the Fourth of July on five Lake Tahoe beaches.
Most of that trash was found at Zephyr Knolls, where the League to Save Lake Tahoe Blue Crew gathered more than 2,700 pounds of cans, shoes, towels, beach chairs, and other assorted waste near Zephyr Cove Resort.
“What we saw today shows we need to come together and put in some effort to Keep Tahoe Blue,” said Tahoe Blue Crew leader Jeff Cowen. “The League’s cleanups are a great opportunity for me to show my kids, our visitors, and our communities what’s important to us, and to shine a light on what’s going on.”
After multiple dives offshore of Nevada Beach in recent years, Clean Up The Lake’s team of divers only found 45 pounds of trash on Tuesday. In 2021, as part of the group’s 72 Mile Cleanup, they removed 468 pounds of garbage from the site.
“It’s great to see that Clean Up The Lake’s work underwater and Keep Tahoe Blue’s work on land is making it harder and harder for litter to enter the lake,” said from Clean Up The Lake Communication and Outreach Coordinator Zac Smith. “The impact is not just removing the trash that shouldn’t be there; it’s about driving awareness that we all can and must prevent litter before it gets into Lake Tahoe.”
Every July 5th since 2014, residents and visitors have picked up litter left in the sand while tabulating data on what they find and how much of it during the League’s annual cleanup event. The long-term dataset assembled from volunteers’ tallies shows a trend away from large heavy trash (coolers, lawn chairs, floaties), and toward smaller and lighter litter items – and many, many more of them. This year alone, volunteers removed 2,500 cigarette butts and 4,260 bits of plastic.
“Out of sight cannot be out of mind if we want to Keep Tahoe Blue,” said League to Save Lake Tahoe Chief Strategy Officer Jesse Patterson. “We need to use every tool in the toolbox to combat pollution on our beaches. Volunteers on land, divers in the water, and innovative technology like the BEBOT are all crucial components.”
Small pieces of litter can be hard to detect, especially if they’re buried in the sand. The BEBOT, an all-electric, beach-cleaning robot was brought to Tahoe through a partnership between the League and ECO-CLEAN Solutions to see if it can catch what may be missed. At Nevada Beach, the robot and several volunteers were assigned similar-sized areas of sand to clean. Volunteers found and removed 30 small litter items, while the BEBOT – sifting through the top few inches of sand – found 300. There’s more litter in Tahoe than meets the eye, and both people and technology are part of the solution.
Event partners included Northstar California Resort, California State Parks, Heavenly Mountain Resort, USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, City of South Lake Tahoe, Bally's Lake Tahoe Casino Resort, and California Land Management.