The Distribution of Anthropogenic Litter Abundance and Type in Three Urban Tributaries of the Lower Olentangy Watershed

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The Ohio State University

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Anthropogenic litter (litter, trash) in the environment has the potential to affect ecosystem and human health. Plastics are a major contributor to anthropogenic litter found in urban headwater streams, and single-use plastic production has increased steadily over the past 60 years. I collected litter at sites in three urban headwater tributaries of the Lower Olentangy River Watershed (Columbus, Ohio, USA) in May, June, and August of 2023. Litter was classified by item type, material composition, probable use, and item size. I found that (1) plastic was the dominant material composition, (2) there was a steady decrease in accumulation rate of items between sample months, (3) morphological factors of the stream played a key role in abundance of litter at each site and location, (4) a few key sites exhibited a positive relationship between land use and item material or probable use, and (5) there was no relationship between litter size and distance from the headwaters. These findings can help inform future management strategies that prevent pollution of urban environments.



Anthropogenic litter, hydrology, urban headwater streams, plastic