2007 Potomac Watershed Trash Summit

June 14, 2007

We are extremely pleased with the 2nd Potomac Watershed Trash Summit convened on June 14, 2007 at The World Bank. Approximately 300 amazing, talented and visionary people gathered to expand our thinking, dialogue, identify and recommend key steps for us to achieve the realistic goal of a Trash Free Potomac by 2013.


Trash Treaty:

Forty-three elected officials have signed onto the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty in May and June 2007 – bringing the total to 66 signatories. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin took leadership as the first U.S. Senator to sign the Trash Treaty. U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), U.S. Representative Wayne Gilchrest (MD), U.S. Representative Jim Moran (VA), DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, and Maryland Governor O’Malley have also added their names to the Trash Treaty. And for the first time, leaders from Pennsylvania have signed including – County Chairman Daniel Swain, County Vice-Chair Bonnie Mellot Keefer, and County Commissioner Ellis Yingling all of Fulton County, PA. From Somerset County, Pennsylvania, County Chairman James Maker, County Vice-Chair Brad Cober and County Secretary Pamela Tokar-Ickes have signed.


Plenary Speakers:

We had two eye-opening talks in the morning plenary:

  • We are extremely grateful to Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer and Marine Biologist for providing an amazing keynote – that shared incredible visuals, facts and personal stories on the impact our trash flowing from rivers and streams is having on our Oceans. Our local actions are having detrimental global impacts.
  • Sandy Wiggins, Chair of the US Green Building Council prepared us for the afternoon Action Roundtables of planning for how we can get to a trash free Potomac by 2013 – by outlining the specific driving forces that have shifted and transformed the U.S. building industry in just seven years (2000 to 2007) – and made parallels between the Green Building and Trash Free Movements. The “green tsunami” is here! (Click here to see the presentation).
  • Federal Partners – Captain Ken Barton, Director of Response and Restoration, NOAA and Ben Grumbles, Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, EPA both followed Dr. Earle to share their support for the need for this watershed approach to address the trash issue. Both federal agencies have major activities focused on marine debris and are committed to collaborating in partnership with the Trash Free Potomac Initiative to resolve and move solutions forward.

Afternoon Roundtables:

The Afternoon Roundtables were incredibly productive, and it was wonderful how open and eager everyone was to share and learn from working models. We encourage you to read the notes for the short and long term recommendations that were made. (Click here for the complete Roundtable minutes)

Highlights and common themes throughout all Roundtables included:

  1. There is a lack of continuity and consistency in our region on how we approach trash/litter — Each jurisdiction is doing their own thing and some have competing motivations to address this issue – we need more coordination!
    • Public Education
    • Landfill fees
    • Recycling
    • Composting
    • Data – monitoring – understanding the problem
    • Enforcement
    • Regulation
  2. We need a Regional Public Education and Outreach Campaign – that is supported by diverse funding sources including all jurisdictions, business community, media, and citizens. Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties have both pledged to put funds into a common regional fund to support a TFPWI Education Campaign!
  3. Regulation drives innovation!
    Most Roundtables identified need to bring regulation into the solution now – to help push all of us to take action. The Regulation Roundtable was incredibly productive and significant agreements were made among key Anacostia Watershed leaders to address the subwatershed’s significant trash issue and serve as a model for the rest of the Potomac Watershed.
  4. We need better Understanding of this problem
    • State of trash as regional issue
    • Our environmental impacts – oceans, climate change, public health, public safety
    • Identifying hot spots and getting to sources
    • Data gathering and monitoring
    • Indicators to measuring progress
    • Leveraging existing laws and regulation that we can enforce?
  5. We need to create INCENTIVES
    Financial incentives both positive and negative are key
  6. We need to realize that there is VALUE IN TRASH $$$$ — we are missing economic opportunities by the way we are handing trash.
  7. Almost every Roundtable agreed we need a regional Bottle Bill, and some explored plastic bag and other product restrictions.
  8. We need real Commitment to fix this problem –
    • Elected officials and policy makers
    • Funding to support
    • Staffing
    • Aggressive collaboration and outreach



  • Believe! – Green Building as a Model for Rapid Change, Sandy Wiggins, Chair of the US Green Building Council, View 930kb PDF
  • Construction Debris Turner
  • EPA Waste Wise View PowerPoint
  • Organic Residuals Management
  • Stormwater Communications Research

Next Steps:

Alice Ferguson Foundation will be convening important follow-up Roundtable planning sessions this Summer and Fall. We encourage all of you to join in. We will be sending you updated announcements and the schedule of time, date, and locations for the Roundtable meetings. (We already have a date and focus set for the first Legislative Roundtable below). These gathering will focus moving forward the recommended actions agreed to in the Summit Roundtables (see Roundtable Minutes for the specific recommendations).


Thank Yous:

Thank you to all of the Elected Officials who signed the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty – we need your leadership, commitment and involvement – you really make a difference!

Thank you to Dr. Earle and Sandy Wiggins for giving your first ever trash talks – you were both inspiring and left behind no excuse for us to not fix this problem. And to our Federal Partners – Captain Barton with NOAA and Ben Grumbles with EPA for your support and challenge to our region!

Thank you to the seven moderators for the Roundtables – they all jumped in and did a fabulous job to bring many diverse thoughts and perspectives together!

Thank you to the presenters and participants who gathered for the Roundtables – we all really benefited from your input!

Thank you to Ross Brindle of Energetics for helping to plan and facilitate the Roundtable wrap-up.

Thank you to The World Bank for your wonderful support in hosting this event the second year in a row. The hardworking Bank staff went above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate us.

Thank you to the exhibitors who shared their expertise, innovations, and ideas to all of the Trash Free Potomac Network.

Finally, Thank You to the sponsors of the Trash Free Potomac Initiative – whose support through funds or in-kind contributions are helping us to push and prod this very important regional problem towards solution and repair:

OCEAN: Fugro EarthData International, Inc.; NOAA, Marine Debris Program; The Summit Fund of Washington; TIDES: Chesapeake Bay Trust; BAY: Koch Industries; National Park Service; The Washington Times; The World Bank; RAPIDS: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; RIVER: LMI; Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; Prince Charitable Trusts; RUN: Beveridge & Diamond; Gaylord Entertainment Foundation; Target; Timothy and Laurie Wadhams; STREAM: Exxon Mobil; L.L. Bean; Patagonia; Piliero, Mazza & Pargament; CREEK: American Chemistry Council; Plastics Division; The Brick Company; DC Divas National Womens Football Team; FishAmerica; K. Hovnanian Homes; REI; Thrivent Financial for Lutherans; Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association; The Washington Post; Winchester Homes; RAINDROP: MD-DE-DC Beverage Association; My Organic Market (MOM’s); Safeway; Walmart – Waldorf, MD; Weisenbach Specialty Printing; Whole Foods