Currents | September 2022

Did you know that the Great Lakes are the biggest freshwater source in the world? Lake Erie is the most productive for fishing of all the Great Lakes. Your support helps make our streams clean, clear and healthy so they can support this complex ecosystem. By donating to PCS, you help us reach our goals of restoring rivers that lead to Lake Erie beaches that promote fishable and swimmable conditions for generations.

Support PCS - Donate Now!

September 2022

Past participants in Clean Your Streams challenges.Clean Your Streams Challenges have been an exciting part of our waterway clean-up for decades. Whether you’re coordinating a youth group, collegiate group, a business or nonprofit, or just an individual who enjoys friendly competition, we’ve got a challenge for you. When you register for Clean Your Streams, you’ll get more information about our updated challenges, but read on for a sneak peek.


Youth Challenges

Youth Challenges are open to all groups where the majority of participants are under 18. Youth Challenges are a good fit if you’re bringing a scout troop, an after-school club, youth sports team, or religious youth group.

To participate in Youth Challenges, make sure a group picks up a challenge entry from your Kickoff Coordinator on the morning of Clean Your Streams Day. Submit your results at the volunteer appreciation picnic, and we’ll tally and announce winners at the picnic itself.

  • Most Volunteers: Awarded to the groups with the most CYS participants.
  • Battle of the Bags: Awarded to the groups who fill the greatest number of trash bags.
  • Awesome Effort: For youth groups, awarded to the groups with the largest average number of bags per person.

Collegiate Challenges

Collegiate challenges are a good fit if you’re part of a service organization, Greek life, school club, or just a group of friends wanting to do some good.

To participate in Collegiate Challenges, make sure when you fill out your data card(s) during Clean Your Streams Day, you put the name of your group clearly on the card. We will use the data you submit to determine challenge winners, and we’ll acknowledge your group by contacting you after CYS Day. Two challenges (Best Before-And-After and Strangest Find) should be submitted as photos via tagging us on social media or by email.

  • Most Volunteers: Awarded to the groups with the most CYS participants.
  • Battle of the Bags: Awarded to the groups who fill the greatest number of trash bags.
  • Awesome Effort: Awarded to the groups that find the most food wrappers, which have surpassed cigarette butts as the #1 removed trash on CYS Day.
  • Best Before-and-After Collegiate: Awarded to the biggest before-and-after impact captured via photo.
  • Strangest Find Collegiate: Awarded to the most unusual items removed and documented via photo.

To send us photos, find us on Twitter and Instagram @PCSMaumee, and on Facebook by searching Partners for Clean Streams. Use #CleanYourStreams419. You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your submissions. PCS staff will vote for the winners.

General Challenges

These challenges are open to individuals or groups. Submit a photo either via social media or email in the following categories -

  • Best Before-And-After: Show us you’re proud of the difference you made by taking a beautiful before-and-after photo.
  • Strangest Find: Think you’ve found something during CYS that nobody else has found? Snap a picture to prove it!

Find us on Twitter and Instagram @PCSMaumee, and on Facebook by searching Partners for Clean Streams. Use #CleanYourStreams419. You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your submissions. PCS staff will vote for the winners.

Recognition for Businesses, Nonprofits, and Other Organizations

When you check-in at your kickoff, let your Kickoff Coordinator know your group name and how many members are participating. Your group will be recognized with a River Partner Certification after CYS Day, as well as featured on the PCS webpage and other materials. Groups are recognized in the following categories:

  • Watershed Warrior: 50+ volunteers
  • River Guardian: 30-49 volunteers
  • Stream Protector: 10-29 volunteers
  • Creek Crusader: 1-9 volunteers

A close-up photo of hands holding a phone, showing a volunteer using Clean Swell to track marine debris they removed.Whether you’ve a Clean Swell newcomer or veteran, we’ve created a handy guide to make it easier than ever to use this app to record and submit waterway clean-up data. Clean Swell got a big update this year and we want to give you the run-down and some FAQs so you can feel confident collecting data on your own or with a group.

Partners for Clean Streams is proud to share the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app. Clean Swell is a phone app version of a data card. It lets you track the marine debris on your smart phone with a simple tap of a tile. The app records the amount of trash you have removed, estimates trash weight, tracks your total distance cleaned, and lets you earn badges as you collect.

  • Download the app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and create a profile.
  • Once you’re on-site at your clean-up location, open the app and select “start new clean-up.” If you’re participating in Clean Your Streams’ remote kickoff, please name your group “CYS 26 – [Your Group Name].” If you’re cleaning up at any other time of the year, we encourage you to name your group “CYS 365 – [Your Group Name]” so that we know you learned about the app from us!
  • When you start your clean-up, you’ll see that trash is organized into item categories. When you open the categories, you’ll see tappable tiles. As you pick up pieces of trash, tap the corresponding type. Another option that works well for cleaning solo is to walk through an area tapping tiles for all the trash you can spot, then pick up the trash after your walkthrough.
  • Once you’ve finished your clean-up and you’re still on-site, select “Finish this cleanup” at the bottom of the screen, then submit your data.

The basics are as simple as that!

Of course, you may still have some questions. What happens if you find something very heavy that doesn’t fit neatly into a category? How do you remove something you’ve accidentally added? Fear not – we made a detailed Clean Swell guide and FAQ, available here.

A photo of a volunteer holding up a clear trash bag of removed marine debris.You’ve probably noticed by now that our programs have something in common: marine debris! The story of how trash gets into our waterways, and what we can do to prevent and remove it, might be more complex than you think. Fortunately, we’ve got resources to shed light on the problem and solutions.

“Marine debris” is the formal way we refer to trash in our waterways. Marine debris includes any solid material created by humans that directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, gets disposed of into a water environment. Although the word “marine” makes many people think of oceans, we still use “marine debris” to talk about trash in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.

Marine debris ranges from objects as large as vehicles to as small as plastic microbeads. The vast majority of marine debris comes from activities on land. Some marine debris gets discarded directly into a waterway from a beach or shoreline, but most debris has a longer journey. Locally, improperly disposed trash or “fly away” trash makes its way from our businesses and neighborhoods via ditches and storm drains into larger water bodies.

Our programs, Clean Your Streams and Get the Lead Out, focus on removing marine debris already in the environment, improving conditions for wildlife and recreation. To prevent marine debris from entering the environment in the first place, the easiest actions each of us can take include reducing our consumption of single-use items by making a switch to reusables, recycling items where possible, and making sure to dispose of trash properly.

When looking for ways to reduce our use of single-use items, some people start by doing a “trash inventory.” At the end of a week or a month, look through your garbage to see the biggest sources of trash are on your life. For some people, it might be snack food packaging, and making a conscious decision to buy bulk food could be a good option. For others, it might be delivery packaging. Some environmentally-conscious companies make an effort to package products sustainably or in wrappings that can be fully recycled, and it could be worth it to make the switch.

One of our area partners in the fight against waterway trash, Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful, maintains a robust resource page with information on recycling both common and harder-to-recycle items.

When you have trash to be thrown away, make sure it goes into a sturdy bin with a lid. That way, it’s less likely to tip over or blow away. When you’re choosing a public bin, avoid bins that are already full or overflowing, since that trash is more likely to escape.

The logo for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy overtop of an ocean background.For more than 35 years, the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC) spearheaded by Ocean Conservancy has galvanized communities worldwide to care for their waterways by removing marine debris. Clean Your Streams began as an ICC event, and Ocean Conservancy is also the force behind the TIDES marine debris database and creating the Clean Swell app. Learn more about our connections to Ocean Conservancy.  

International Coastal Cleanup

The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) began with a small group of volunteers on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Today, individuals from more than 150 countries participate in the ICC, and in 2020, more than 5 million pounds of trash were removed from waterways and beaches. Clean Your Streams began in 1997 under the umbrella of Coastweeks in Ohio, through the Lake Erie Commission and has always been part of the ICC.

To this day, the Ocean Conservancy is the organization that creates and sends us data cards to collect information on the trash volunteers remove during Clean Your Streams Day and other marine debris removal programs. By being part of the ICC, Clean Your Streams has contributed to a worldwide data set used to set policy, change packaging, manufacturing, and transportation laws and policies, and to raise awareness of the impacts of marine debris.

TIDES Database

The TIDES Database (Trash Information and Data for Education and Solutions) is a public data system maintained by the Ocean Conservancy containing the world’s largest ocean trash dataset, all collected by volunteers. You can view clean-ups by navigating the map here. Zoom in to our region of Northwest Ohio and you’ll see lots of clean-ups pop-up, either from PCS staff compiling and submitting paper data cards, or by individuals using the Clean Swell App.

Clean Swell App

Thanks to the ubiquity of smart phones, Clean Swell App was a natural outgrowth of the TIDES database. Clean Swell is a phone app version of a citizen science data card that allows you to contribute information on a clean-up directly to TIDES. We’re proud that Partners for Clean Streams has been designated as a local clean-up leader and that our logo is featured on the app for anyone who opens it within our region. If you’re curious to learn more about Clean Swell or considering using it for a clean-up of your own, we detailed Clean Swell guide and FAQ available here.

Partners for Clean Streams Inc. is striving for abundant open space and a high quality natural environment; adequate floodwater storage capacities and flourishing wildlife; stakeholders who take local ownership in their resources; and rivers, streams and lakes that are clean, clear and safe