November Scenic Citizen: Robby Robinson, Clean & Green Program

The Clean & Green team uses a specially designed “BioVac” to clean up floating waste building up on Buffalo Bayou and its tributaries.

Buffalo Bayou is one of Houston’s richest natural resource and a dynamic hub for recreational activities for residents and visitors alike. Keeping this community gem clean from debris and accessible to all is no small feat. Robby Robinson, head of Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s Clean & Green Program, our November Scenic Citizen, is the unsung hero charged with leading this comprehensive maintenance and management program that utilizes hundreds of community service workers to collect and remove trash and debris from the Bayou and its tributaries—preventing it from flowing into Port Houston and on to Galveston Bay.

Five days a week, eight hours a day, the Clean & Green team directs and works alongside land-based crews of community service workers to remove mounds of litter plaguing Buffalo Bayou’s 52-mile stretch. Floating garbage like basketballs, shopping carts, and construction materials are pulled from the water. The biggest cleaning headache? A constant stream of discarded plastic bags.

Heavy rain and big floods exacerbate the problem. Highwater events make it easy for plastic bags to become tangled up to 20-feet high in the bayou’s trees. When the water recedes, the bags are left painfully twisted in branches at unreachable heights. “The plastic bags are an absolute pain to get loose,” Robby says, so the team has specially made tools to tear the bags away. In any given month, the Clean & Green team collects approximately 90 cubic yards of plastic bags – that’s equivalent to more than 7 full commercial garbage trucks.

The floating waste is an eyesore that degrades the water quality and natural beauty of our complex and dynamic bayou system. As Scenic Houston enhances the visual character of Houston’s public spaces, the Clean & Green Program pays special attention our intricate watersheds. Together, both organizations are making Houston a better place to live, work, and visit. Robby envisions a day the Clean & Green Program runs out of trash to pick up, but until then, “there’s always something to do,” he says.

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