One Man’s Battle with Plastic Pollution


Armed with a home-made suction device, David Rivers clears about 250 garbage bags worth of trash from the bayou and its tributaries each week. If you think one person can’t make a difference, think again—you’ll be as smitten with David as we are!


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This episode was produced by Rob Schulte.

Break Some Dishes is presented by Davies Office.


This transcript was made with help from an automated service, in some portions it may contain errors.

Verda: [00:00:00] Welcome to break some dishes,

Jon: defying the rules to inspire design.

Verda: I’m Verda Alexander.

Jon: And I’m Jon Strassner. So, Verda, we’re gonna talk to Bayou, Dave. And I’m really excited to talk to him. Hopefully you are too. Yeah,

Verda: I think Dave. epitomizes what I am looking for are these people that have married their passion with what they’re doing that is also saving the planet.

And Bayou Dave wakes up every morning excited to go and clean up these waterways and pull garbage, pull plastic bags out of trees and all kinds of plastic bottles out of the waterway. He is actually, So excited about doing this every day. And he is looking at the bigger picture. He’s asking questions and he’s really.

Like exploring, examining, and it’s all because he absolutely loves what he does. I get so excited by people that have put those two together, passion, purpose, and their careers. All right. So shall we? Yeah.

Jon: Are you ready to talk to him?

Verda: Let’s do it.

Dave: Growing up. I never knew that, um, pollution or trash in our environment was even an issue. And, um, I met a guy, they called him the real alcoholic. Uh, he was, uh, he was my friend’s father.

Jon: Okay.

Dave: And he told us, uh, we needed to get off our tush and get a real job. And so he was in the environmental business and he saw [00:02:00] opportunity for us to get in with the crews that were going to help the people after Katrina.

So I went in and got my hash match certificates and basic plus and went out and saw the devastation and. It blew my mind because, um, the television didn’t show everything. So when we got there, we were totally surprised, not just with the trash, but the devastation. So that’s when I first got, um, into environmental.

Jon: What was it that was so different from what you saw on TV when you got on the ground there and you signed up to clean up? So you knew you were going to be cleaning up garbage, but what was it that blew your mind?

Dave: Well, I knew we had to go in and get the hazmat out, um, any hazardous materials before they came in and did demolition, but no one was prepared for the, the, the devastation, the loss of loss of life, um, uh, entire neighborhoods.

Just totally disappeared, but then a little bitty wood church across the street was leaning to the side, but still there. I saw horses in the trees, Bobtail trucks in the trees, and we never saw that on the news. There were people that were just left because they couldn’t get to them. They didn’t show that a minute.

We lost a lot of people because of what they saw when they got there. You know, it was just so,

Jon: you

Dave: know, humbling and depressing that a lot of people couldn’t make the entire trip. We stayed for over a year and a half and there was a lot of people that left within the first six months.

Jon: Wow, that’s incredible.

Wow. Wow. And that that was a catalyst for you.

Dave: Yes, because after that, uh, we went out on different jobs cleaning up hazmat Uh, caustic spills. And I noticed whenever we would get to ports. It would be a large accumulation of trash. So I would ask the managers [00:04:00]and the owner, um, what’s going on with this trash?

Um, no one’s doing anything about it. You have all this money from government to clean up these oil spills, but what about the trash? And he said, well, no one to pay for it. And I was like, wow. So, you know, the only way we would get trash out of the water is if it impeded, you know, our work with trying to clean the oil up other than that, no one cares, you know, no one cares.

So it just totally blew my mind, but it was on my radar at that point because the waterway collects so much trash, you don’t see it unless you’re on

Music: it.

Dave: So after meeting Mr. Mike Garver and learning about Buffalo Bayou Partnership, It gave me the opportunity to do what I already wanted to do, and I couldn’t believe it was already a company out there that was trying to do something to combat the, the trash on our environment.

So of course, you know, I fell in love from the beginning, especially my office being nature.

Verda: Yeah. What a wild contradiction. You know, you talk about one of the things you love about your job is being out in nature, but then you’re also looking at this horrible sight every day of, of our, our waste. That we aren’t even aware of.

Like you said, I think corporations, big corporations spend a lot of money making sure that we don’t wake up to the problems of pollution. We think, Oh, what’s, what’s the big deal. A little bit of trash on the side of the freeway. Right. But, um, yeah, it definitely. impacts wildlife, our ecosystems. I know you’re passionate about the animals and all the plants in the bayou.

Dave: But see now that was one of the things that caught me off guard because I didn’t know it was actually, um, institutions or groups that would actually be opposed to cleaning up the environment or wanting the environment to be clean, uh, educating people on. You know, the effects that it has on the environment.

Then when I saw that, you know, it was so difficult to pass something as simple as a bottle deal because people were [00:06:00] against it, I just couldn’t understand that. And the more I get into these talks with people, the more I find out about the resistance on saving them. So I appreciate all the work that you guys do.

I’ve listened to a few of your podcasts.

Verda: Oh, nice. Awesome. Great.

Dave: Yeah, I think it’s awesome.

Verda: Well, you’ll know that John is a huge plastic nut. On his direction, we have interviewed a few people that have cleaned up beaches, that have gone out and taken ocean plastic nets and things out of the ocean. So John, this is a big passionate area for him.

I was reading the article that Kara wrote for you and That you have supported these bottle bills in the past and so I did a little bit of research. I was shocked. I was reading an article in 2017 and it said that only 10 states in the in the United States have adopted bottle bills and I thought, Oh, I need to read a more current article and see how many.

Now in 2023 have adopted bottle bills. Well, it turns out it’s still the same 10 Like we have made little very little traction on bottle bills when it’s been proven That when a bottle bill is in place in a state it can divert up to 84 percent of bottle from landfills and from waterways and all of that.

84 percent it’s like, it’s, it’s got an incredible success rate.

Dave: The reason why it’s so successful is because of the large number of homeless we have. And, you know, to go out and pick up 20 bottles and I can go to McDonald’s and get me something to eat, you know, really. You know, sets a situation where, you know, more and more people do it.

People you don’t even expect would do it because I’m pretty sure people didn’t didn’t think David Rivers would grow up and try to save the world and clean the environment. It just was not on my radio. I wanted to do it. Do landscaping and, you know, I wanted to be a guide for fishing, all this type of stuff, a police officer, you know, and [00:08:00] as I evolved, um, I realized this was something that was totally necessary.

The climate people are talking about, people are talking about emissions, you know, people are talking about, you know, recycling, but people not talking about. You know, trying to come back to issue of plastic as long as plastic is coming into the environment, you know, I’ll have a job. I have things I have to clean up.

So until we figure out some type of way to come up with something else, I know plastic is cheap, but if we could come up with something that’s biodegradable, that would be

Verda: that would be incredible. Yeah. And this economic incentive, like you said, people that can yeah. Pick up 20 bottles or so and go to McDonald’s and get a burger.

We need those incentives because the big corporations have basically just shifted all of the burden on the consumers and no, no one is paying to clean up that trash. And who’s opposing those bottle bills? It’s Pepsi Cola. It’s Coca Cola. It’s Anheuser Busch. It’s the International Water Bottle Association,

Music: right?

Verda: It’s these types of organizations, and they’re funding the defeat of these bills by 30 to one.

Dave: Yes.

Verda: So, you know, if there’s anything that we can do that we can ask our viewers to do is to. Pay attention to what kind of legislation is getting out there and support your legislators in any way that you can.

There was a national bill that went to the Senate, uh, I guess earlier this year. I couldn’t even track whether it actually went to the floor, if it got voted on, if it got defeated. I have no idea. I must have fizzled, I guess, but it’s a shame, right?

Dave: Yeah. It’s something I see over and over again. You know, it’s touching the right people, getting the right people to care.

Uh, I don’t know if it’s touching the right pocket. So what we have to do to get people to, um, care a little bit more. That’s the reason why I started doing the videos because I thought it was a situation where people just didn’t know. You know, I didn’t know we were fighting a battle with trash, um, informing people and a legitimate [00:10:00] entity opposed to trying to save the world.

I just didn’t see the logic in it because pollution is something that affects every person on the earth. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or you’re poor, uh, your race, your religion, you’re gonna be affected by the plastic some type of way for sure. You eat fish and you breathe air. You eat honey in some type of way, you’ll be affected by the plastic.

And so that’s why it’s so important to me because I have grandchildren and we love fishing. Yeah. And I would like for them to be able to eat fish in the future.

Verda: It’s not logical at all.

Jon: We just saw on the news yesterday that a study came out that showed that if you’re drinking bottled water in a plastic water bottle, you’re consuming microplastics and nanoplastics.

Yes. So, yes. Dave, David, you’re right. If you’re rich or you’re poor, pollution is going to affect you. I think we all agree that, you know, it’s the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, the poor communities that get affected first and the worst. Right. But, you know, it’s a challenge. Were you surprised, you know, when you started trying to clean up litter and trying to clean up garbage, were you surprised that you met?

Like a legitimate organized, what’s the word you, you, you met resistance.

Dave: Yes. The resistance was, I mean, it was a little depressing at first because I just didn’t know it existed. I thought everybody was on board with saving the world. Like I said, I just thought it was a situation where people weren’t informed.

But, um, I think the biggest issue is that no one wants to take responsibility. So if the corporations take responsibility for the problem, then they also have to fund it. And so they don’t want to fund it because it cuts into their, um, their gross income. So, I just want to keep it on the line and say that I feel like everybody is responsible.

I feel like the big companies are [00:12:00] responsible and I feel like the individual at home is responsible also. So, you know, I’m not trying to shift all the blame to the companies, but they are the ones that are making it. And if they’re all companies that are aware, like we had, um, Air Alliance that came out and they cleaned up on the bayou and they just couldn’t believe how much trash it was.

All what I had to go through on the vacuum boards. To clean up the waste on the water, because everything that’s in the water goes into that unit and turns into potpourri. By you, potpourri, and then it goes into the container. So, you know, it’s not for everybody. You have to be dedicated for this. It was difficult.

Verda: That potpourri doesn’t smell so good, does it?

Dave: No, no, by you, potpourri.

Jon: Yeah, no, no, Brian. Um, we did not give Dave a chance to really talk. Talk about what he, what he does on the barge. Can you just take a minute, David, and tell us a little bit about this barge that you’ve gotten on the, on the, on the Buffalo Bayou.

Dave: It’s awesome. It’s a, it’s a boat that was designed by Mr. Mike Garber. And, um, when I met Mike Garber, he had a barge, a smaller barge, and, uh, it just wasn’t able to get Um, trash from different applications. So when I got on the boat, you know, this is, you know, my chance to save the world. So I got all into it.

And, uh, I noticed that it was difficult spinning around on top of the water, trying to get one little cup. I

Jon: could see that.

Dave: So, um, I thought about the containment booms because we had containment booms in the oil spills. They had big buoys and things set up on the water, so we brought in containment booms that helped.

Um, I remember getting a little piece of, um, uh, 12 inch hose and I had a, And I put it, I made, made it the handle and I put on and I let it down and tried to swing it around to see if it [00:14:00] would work. I had a couple of people laugh at me, but here 15 years later, we have a boat that does exactly that and, and it works great.

Jon: And it’s a massive, massive hose.

Dave: Yes, it’s a 16 inch hose. The barge is 46 foot long. Um, my, my box, Roloff box, a whole 22 yards. So we’ll do 22 times three because everything that goes in there is, is crushed and, and shredded before it goes in. So it takes a lot to, to feel the boat, but I’m still able to do it on the average of, of, um, once a week, at least sometimes twice or three times.

It just depends on the, uh, influx of trash, but wonderful, wonderful boat.

Verda: Yeah, it sounds like you’ve jerry rigged it in a number of ways.

Dave: We had to. We had

Verda: to. Yeah, day to day work and understanding what’s, what’s working and what’s not working when your nets are breaking too much.

Dave: Nets were horrible.

Verda: You’re a designer at heart.

Dave: Yeah,

Jon: he’s a designer.

Dave: When we were working on the bayou, we noticed that, um, the little green necks would always tear up when we were trying to get trash out of the bayou. So I had to come up with something a little different. So, um, we do recycle on the bayou and what we find, we try to keep and use.

And so we had, um, mop handle, uh, a paint handle, and then we had some, uh, pool ball, some shrimping net, and I was able to come up with some nets that didn’t tear up. Then we got a welder, he made some. We had issues with getting bags out of the trees. I went to the hardware store, came up with a cloth to get bags out of the trees, turned that over to the welder.

We’re the pioneers on cleaning up the waterways, and it hadn’t been done before, so. You know, necessity is the mother of all inventions. So we’ve had to invent quite a few tools just to be able to save the world.

Verda: I’d never thought about these plastic bags, right? Those don’t [00:16:00]necessarily stay in the water because they’re so lightweight.

They fly into the overpasses, branches,

Dave: tree. Oh, it’s horrible. And 10 foot from the water, you know, people need to think about if they’re trying to maintain their values. And that waterways, 10 foot from the water is usually how high the water will go after a storm. And that area not only has erosion, but that area also has a high number of trees that catches the bags.

It took us over a year to remove the bags from the trees, um, from, uh, our boat ramp at Hirsch Road all the way into downtown Houston at the Houston Memorial, Police Memorial. It took over a year. You know, it’s horrible.

Jon: Yeah. And what you don’t collect goes out into the Gulf, right?

Dave: Yes. Yes.

Jon: You’re the final catch.

Dave: Yes. Because that’s what got my first attention to this whole mess was the Pacific trash dump. That was my original dream. I said I was going to come up with a way. To clean that trash out of the, out of the, um, Pacific trash dump. I had no idea that it had got that bad and it’s steady growing. And the only way they’re getting it up right now is those containment booms.

Coincidentally, the exact same way that we clean up on the bayou. You know, that was my first passion because I wanted to do something about that because I found out that the fish had microplastic inside of them. Every fish they caught had plastic in it. You know, so I know that, hey, we have to do something.

I don’t know if we have to set up more forums like this where people can talk and, you know, put their ideas on the table. Um, people that are in legislation, uh, government, people that can pay us bills and get things done, but we need to set up some type of forum where, you know, these things can be handled and we can come up with solutions instead of just talks.


Verda: I feel like we need to do whatever we can at the individual level until, you [00:18:00] government steps in. I, plastic bags are just one of my least favorite things on the planet. And here in California, we have a bag bill SB270 that’s banned plastic bags, but I can still go get my takeout and, and it comes in a plastic bag.

So I don’t need to. I don’t quite understand how, how the pan has worked, but John, we’ve talked a lot about where these plastic bags come from and why they’re so insidious and why they’re so hard to get rid of in our society. Right. What are they made out of, John?

Jon: Petroleum. They’re all petrol based, right?

So we, listen, everybody should know that as electric vehicles go. Gain ground in popularity and the automotive industry begins to purchase less fuel for cars. We all know the petro industry, the oil, the fossil fuel industry is going to shift and they’re going to make their money on plastics. So they’re going to be pushing plastics now more than ever.

Verda: And they’re going to be making all kinds of new ways for us to use them. Single use plastic. So we need to fight back.

Jon: Yeah. So what

Dave: are

some things you think we could, we could do? What do you think that Bayou Dave can do with his voice to maybe bring awareness to this issue?

Verda: I think your videos are great. Just showing us the amount of trash in the bayou is mind blowing. I think that’s, that’s definitely like just raising awareness. is fantastic.

Jon: Yeah. Yeah. And for anybody who doesn’t know, Bayou Dave has an Instagram where he posts videos of his team cleaning, literally cleaning garbage out of the bayou, [00:20:00] you know, and the stuff that they’re pulling out is, I mean, I think it’s got to be super satisfying that you can, like, at the end of the day, it’s, you know, You know, you turn around and you look and you have a clean body of water where, when you started in the morning, it was garbage all over the place.

But what I really think is fascinating about your story is you didn’t set out to be an activist, but look at you today, you actually have a voice. And I think, you know, if I were to give you a piece of advice, it would be to affect legislation as much as possible. And, um, not everybody understands that there are companies out there that are.

That are resisting bill proposals that can help us take plastic out of waterways and such and you know you have an opportunity I think with your voice to raise awareness and I think you have, you know,

Verda: and there are a couple of websites that list all of the bills being proposed. By legislators and, um, what I’ve done, I have an organization called the Climate Action Committee.

It’s part of a design organization and we look for bills that we want to support as an association and, uh, you know, there’s that’s something that you could do on an individual level. If you’re a part of a, uh, Any kind of community group you could do something like that and support bills right to your legislators Supposedly, I’d love to learn more about this process, but an individual citizen can also propose a bill I don’t know what all’s entailed But that would that might be something for us to to get a guest on and talk about how

Jon: the Virta bill Right.

Oh, I don’t think so. Well, so David, I’m curious too. I think, you know, I first of all love the fact that you just asked us a question on our podcast. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a guest flip it and ask us a question. I wasn’t ready for it. But just the fact that. You’re asking, like you are cure, you are still curious.

How can you make change? And man, don’t ever stop asking that question. [00:22:00] You’ve been working on the Bayou now, um, for probably what? 13, 14 years.

Dave: Um, it’ll be 15 years this year in October. Yes, sir.

Jon: First of all, congratulations on that. That’s you’ve got a body of work behind you. You must be proud of. I’m just curious.

How has your perspective changed from when you first started going out there and trying to clean that, that by you?

Dave: I guess maybe my perspective changed as far as thinking it would end, um, or I would get to a point where I would be content with everything. I remember making a video about, um, 10 or 11 years ago, um, And it was called the State of the Port of Houston.

And I said, the State of the Port of Houston is good. You know, um, so a rainstorm will come. And as soon as that storm comes, I start all over again. And so, you know, it’s kind of daunting to know that I can come in and do all this work. And it looks great. I took a before and after. Look, I did it. On to the next spot.

And then it rains. I come back after lunch. No one even believes I was there, you know, so a picture is worth a thousand words. I had to take a picture and you wouldn’t believe I was there.

Verda: Wow. It’s a never ending battle.

Dave: Yes, always.

Jon: Are you optimistic?

Verda: I

Dave: am. I am. Um, mainly because People are becoming more aware.

They just didn’t know before. And we have people that are pushing to try to do things about the environment. Um, we’ve had groups that come out and just want to volunteer and clean up. We’ve had senators, judges. I know you saw, we had the queen come out, JJ Watts came and helped clean up on the body. He was upset because he couldn’t clean up more.

You know, it’s just making people aware that it’s even an issue. Most people don’t even see the trash unless they’re doing a tour with Buffalo Bayou [00:24:00] Partnership, and everything is wonderful, they’re listening to the music, and then they see the containment boats full of trash, and what is this, you know, and then they realize we clean up on the bayou, and they want to be a part of it.

And so that’s what’s great about the videos, is that it makes more and more people want to be a part of it, because we’re a partnership. So the more people, the merrier, and we have so many things going on. We have the hiking bike trail. We had a greater East end project. We’re trying to get green space. We have the parks department where we do events.

And so it’s so many things that we’re trying to do that, you know, money has to be allocated directly to those different departments. So Buffalo Bayou partnership, um, being so diverse. I felt like. You know, it was really important to bring clean and green side out so that people would know that we do more than just pick trash up off the beach.

You know, they think we’re just the glorified trash men. Um, but when we come out, it’s more than just picking up trash. We have to do maintenance on the bayous. We have log jams. We have boats that need to be repaired and maintained. We have to lift canopies. You have trash that, that goes onto the bank after, um, uh, big rain.

And so that trash and the brush has to be taken out. That’s when I add my, my hose. I added a 25 foot hose that I can extend out on the banks and we can clean the banks. Um, I just had to make the boat, you know, um, Applicable to different applications. It just wouldn’t work floating on top of the water. I saw, um, it was a paddle boat somewhere and for a boat like that, the conditions would have to be, you know, perfect for him to be able to get it has to be floating directly in front of him and you can’t get anything off the banks.

So that’s the reason why I added the hose because I want to get everything. I want to get the trash out of the [00:26:00] trees, lift the canopy, get the stuff out for the banks, uh, and then clean our waterways too. And I’m just working my way down to Bayou, but it’s just one boat. But maybe pretty soon we’ll have one in each city.

You’ll have a Bayou Dayton in each city.

Verda: I was thinking that’s where you can bring in some influence. You’ve got a lot of experience. You’ve outfitted your boat in this fantastic way. Technically, I mean, there aren’t a whole lot of these programs in other cities. So that means in these other cities along the bayous, different bayous, all of this trash is going out to the Gulf and into the ocean, right?

Dave: Yes. And so now The Pacific trash dump. That’s what was made me so adamant about trying to get it at this level, because I know every piece of trash that misses us goes somewhere it disappears sometimes because of the water going up and down and then the current moving in somewhere. And then it comes back out, but it always goes somewhere.

So I feel like, you know, we need to start sweeping around our own front doors and we get people to adopt the park. Uh, adopt a lake, adopt a gorge, a gully, um, a bayou, um, the bayou in the neighborhood, uh, drainage ponds, a highway, just get people to start being more active and then that way the children are involved because the children are really our future.

We’re really passing this on to them because I don’t know if we’ll be able to complete this mission in our lifetime, but at least we can put their incentive inside of these children now, and maybe they’ll be able to pick up what we

Verda: do. Oh, absolutely. Now you’re not seeing less trash, right?

Dave: Well, during COVID.


Jon: course.

Verda: Everything went down during COVID. Emissions went down during COVID.

Jon: Yeah, the world was a better place during COVID.

Dave: Yeah, I had no work. I had no work. I was [00:28:00] depressed walking around trying to figure out what to do. Yeah, but, but right after people started going to work, I got that first rain and it was confirmed that people are back at it.

Verda: All right, so the trash was back, but, but one of the indicators that what you’re doing is working is the wildlife, right? And you’re The ecosystem is very important to you. Tell us the story about the birds and the snakes that you saw coming back. Oh

Dave: man, it’s awesome because I just saw a juvenile. Um, bald eagle on the bayou in town.

And we normally never see them in town. They stay on the outskirts for the, into the port of Houston. So to see one so close in that also lets us know that the environment is better because eagles don’t just eat fish, the osprey do. So that lets me know that the ecosystem is so nice that you have red tail hawks, you have, um, Uh, I spray, you have ingrids, gray herons, and you have all these different birds in the ecosystem has to be wonderful.

We have, uh, red fish, alligator, gar, pin nose, gar, alligator, snapping turtles, and they, um, parks and wildlife has just said that we’re one of the only places that they know of that has an urban area. that has a population of snapping turtles. Alligator snapping turtles were thought to be extinct on Buffalo Bay.

But not only are they there, but they’re also reproducing on the bay. So that’s, that’s letting you know that this, this Bayou is more important than just being a waterway. It’s more important than just being a historical area that you can come to. Because if this bayou is destroyed, it’s a lot of wildlife that’ll be destroyed also.

A lot.

Jon: It doesn’t sound like you want to swim. In the Buffalo Bayou, I’ll tell you that much.

Dave: Well, it’s been classified as safe to the touch. [00:30:00]

Jon: Yeah, until an alligator snapping turtle comes up behind you and you’re not ready for it.

Dave: Oh no, you don’t want that, no.

Jon: I will say this, I’ve been to Houston a few times and I’ve jogged along the Buffalo Bayou and it is a beautiful place to run, that’s for sure.

Yes, you know, so it’s, it’s, you know, you have a hand in, in preserving and bringing some green space back to life in a, in an urban area. And gosh, could you just imagine if you could franchise Bayou Dave? Like, you know, man,

Dave: I thought about it. I really did, you know, because it would, it would be great if we had a, a Bayou Dave on each Bayou and river in America.

Um, but I’m still just one person, uh, maybe we’ll talk about it and we can figure out how to make more Bayou Dave.

Jon: Yeah, I’m in Connecticut. I could be, I could be Bayou Dave on the Farmington River and, uh, start working to clean that up a little bit.

Dave: And I would love to travel around the world and find out how people, um, compact their problems.

Because not only do we have an issue with trash, but we also have a big, um, problem with erosion. Thank you. on the bayou. And so, you know, how do you combat erosion without channelizing the waterways? We still want it to be a natural system. How do you keep it natural when you have all these plans for the bayou, but you still have the natural erosion?

How do you combat that and still leave the bayou beautiful? You

Verda: mean development plans?

Dave: Yes, yes.

Verda: Yeah.

Dave: And so how do we do that and still keep the ecosystem in check?

Verda: Don’t get me started. I mean, there’s also the unseen pollution, you know, runoff from fertilizers, from, from crops, things like that.

Dave: I haven’t even posted that video yet.

I have a video showing the runoff coming from the drains into the water. You just don’t see some of the drains into the water drops down low enough. These factors have been in existence [00:32:00] so long that they have these, these exit tunnels follow this pollution that they’re kicking into the waterways. And you never see it.

The only reason I do is because I’m on the water every single day. And one of my hobbies is mapping, um, drains. And that’s the only way I see it. And I just don’t have enough time to work with your husband, the father, and post all the different videos. But the moment I get a chance, boy, it’ll blow your mind.

All the stuff I see, especially the microplastics you mentioned. Ridiculous.

Jon: These drains, you know, these drains, I can almost guarantee you, they’ve got a, uh, permit from the EPA to discharge so many thousand gallons of, of material a day, and they’re not breaking any laws, which is what’s really mind blowing, you know?


Verda: can legally pollute.

Dave: Right, under the guise of parts per million, you know. But, you know, when you see fish belly up in the water, large fish belly up in the water, you know they didn’t just die of natural causes. You know, so. So how do we combat that? What, what can we do to, to, to pass legislations to stop the dumping?

I’ve seen them dump, um, caustics from a frag truck into the bayous when I was working in, um, uh, plants. They’re just dumping straight into the waterway. So what can we do to make them accountable for those type of dumpings?

Verda: That is a bigger problem. Actually, this, this season, our very first episode, we were, we talked to some people in the right in the way of a chemical plant, and they don’t have a lot of options.

And they’re up against some pretty big players. It’s not a good scenario.

Jon: Yeah, it’s, um. I don’t want to say it’s depressing. It’s challenging. And you know, what they say is, you know, you take on a chemical company that’s got deep pockets and guess what? The local government is going to support the chemical company because they’re the biggest taxpayer in [00:34:00] town.

And they’re also the biggest employer. And you know, David, your question is great. What do we do? Right. But I think what’s amazing about the work that you’ve done is you are What you’re doing is you’re creating a community, right? You have become, you have evolved into a community activist, a community organizer, and I think you have a voice and a body of work that people will follow, right?

And I think communities can get together and hold together. Governments accountable and and hold city governments accountable and hold corporations accountable and it’s just you can’t just let them do it under the radar anymore, you know, it’s your videos are going to build a lot of awareness, you know, as sometimes as hard as they are to watch.

Verda: Raising awareness is huge.

Dave: Right, right.

Verda: Yeah, well I don’t want to keep you too much longer. I’ve just, one person doing some incredible impactful work. You’ve been an inspiration today.

Jon: And raising a family and being a father and a husband and are you a grandfather too?

Dave: And a grandfather.

Verda: I have

Dave: three daughters, three sons, three granddaughters, three grandsons.

Verda: Nice. And you’re doing what you love and you’re saving the world while you’re at it.

Dave: Right. Right.

Jon: Thanks for taking the time with us today, buddy. We really appreciate it.

Dave: No problem. Thanks for having me. All

Verda: right, John. Love that episode. Just a guy that loves nature and wants to be out there all the time.

Jon: Oh my God. I love, I love Bayou Dave. I love the fact that he actually stopped and asked us a question. He was like, well, what do you guys think? Yeah, he is a curious soul. And. I love the fact that we’re finding people this season that aren’t necessary. We keep calling them [00:36:00] accidental activists, but Bayou Dave didn’t decide one day he was going to be an environmentalist, right?

Verda: Yeah, absolutely. And I keep thinking about, we’ve talked about this before, how one of the things that helps us solve for climate change is getting people just out in nature, getting people to realize the beauty out there. And I, I think. Bayou Dave is a great example of someone who has absolutely fallen in love and wants to do everything he can.

Jon: Almost like he had an appreciation for it. And then realize that he needed to do something to, to, to really protect it, which I think is pretty cool. And I, there’s also something else that I think we’re going to see. We’re going to see a pattern here. And, um, when we talked to Bayou Dave, we ended up. at regulation.

And I don’t know about you, but I was pleasantly, I was happy to hear that he was obviously already there. And I think that what we’re going to find is all these people, even though they’re accidental activists and they’re doing what they can personally do to make change. I think that they all come to realize at some point that it’s going to take community and that they need to activate their entire community.

Verda: Yeah, and pointing out to that, we did talk with Bayou Dave about how just seeing all that plastic in the water makes you want to do something. And I think that the more images, the more we don’t just look away, put it in the blue bin and say, Oh, we did our job, right? We have to see these images. We have to hear these stories of people that are working night and day to, To clean up the trash that shouldn’t really shouldn’t even exist

Jon: like nobody’s too good for that job.

You know what I mean? And I love that he just Jerry rigged this boat and [00:38:00] like he figured it out. And we did talk a little bit during the episode about franchising Bayou Dave. And while I think it’s, it’s something we were joking about, there is Something to that. Right. Imagine being able to tap into his passion and his energy and bringing it to other waterways.

Right. And bringing a Bayou Dave to, gosh, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, which has been cleaned up amazingly. But at one point, you know, that was really bad. I’m sure that when they cleaned up the Cuyahoga River, it started with one person who said, this is crazy.

Verda: Yeah, we need thousands, thousands of Bayou Daves.


Jon: Love him. Love him. And I want to tell anybody listening, follow Bayou Dave’s Instagram because it’s really cool. I love watching the video of him or his partner with that beard. Great big suction hose. It’s kind of like one of those fascinating videos that you can just like sit there and watch because they’re just sucking up all this garbage and it’s instant gratification.


Verda: John. I don’t know what to say about that.

Jon: Well, there’s, there’s, hey, there’s like a Russian proverb, right? That says, um, a man can watch two things forever. a fire burning and another man working. And so there you go. I don’t know if we want to get into what that says about men.

Verda: How about let’s wrap this episode up.

Jon: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. All right. As you wait with bated breath, guess what time it is. It’s break some dishes, hot seat time.

And today I thought it was a rap, John. What? No,

Verda: I thought we were done. No,

Jon: we’re never. We’re never done. Our job is never over. You are linked with me. Forever. Just

Verda: like Bayou Dave, always back for more, [00:40:00] always more plastic bottles in the water. You

Jon: gotta deal with a lot of garbage, Verda, a lot of garbage.

And Verda, you are in the hot seat, I hope you are ready. What? Are you ready? Yes! I guess it’s my turn. Is it getting hot yet? Uh, yeah. Yeah, it is your turn. You threw me in it the other day, so I’m throwing you in it. And then, Verna, here’s the good news. After you sit in the hot seat and burn your tush, you don’t have to do it again, because we’re going to bring new people into the hot seat, and we’re going to, we’re going to burn their tushes.

So, okay, you ready for your first question?

Verda: Sure.

Jon: Okay, I’m, I’m, I’ve got a drum roll rolling in my head. Quick draw. Let me get that in a minute. Okay, quick, quick, quick. What does sustainability mean to you in one sentence? One sentence, Virta, make it a good one.

Verda: Sustainability to me is passé. It’s, it’s over.

It’s done. It’s what we should have been doing 50 years ago, and we need a new word because we’re way, way past it. We’re not sustainable.

Jon: Love it. Okay, so that was an excellent answer, and it made me look stupid at the same time. So double whammy. See, it just goes to show you that the hot seat can can work both ways.

Okay, what’s more important for our industry? Circularity? Or focus on materials, material transparency.

Verda: Oh, geez. Well, if you solve for circularity, you solve for material transparency.

Jon: Okay. Wow. You kind of, I feel like you kind of bucked your way out of that question. We’re going to let you out of it. And listen, for any listeners out there who may not know what circularity means, it basically means keeping from throwing Things into the landfill.

So it’s finding ways to reuse, repurpose, recycle. It’s keeping things out of the garbage. Basically,

Verda: it’s keeping things in the loop so that there’s never any waste. And I think we can also look at the word circularity and say that we need a better word already now too. And I’m thinking of [00:42:00] regenerative as maybe the next step where we’re not only keeping things in the loop, we’re actually repairing.

the damage that we’ve created.

Jon: I totally agree with you. I was giving you a hard time. Sustainability is a horrible word. It’s so passe. We do need to find a new word for it. I totally agree with you. Question number three coming at you. Tell us what you appreciate the most in your own community.

Verda: Okay. I’m going to give you a very specific example.

It’s my neighbor, Ashley. She is This person I just met very, oh gosh, this is getting a little long. She’s just out there. She’s willing to do anything. She knocked on every neighbor’s door, wanted to do a Halloween party. We’re at the end of a block and knocked on everybody’s door to get permission. And this party just, unified everyone.

I met my neighbors. I’ve been here, lived here for two years. I met my neighbors across the street that I’d never met before. We put up all these cool decorations that the entire community, I would walk the dog and they’d say, Oh, your street looks so cute. And I just love how this small act of generosity on her part really brought the community together.

And if we could do that around. other things like cleanup or, you know, awareness or maybe signing petitions. I think that would be kind of an amazing next step.

Jon: Ah, that’s awesome. I love that. Yeah. Hey, community, man. That’s, you can’t do it without the community. Okay. Verda, nice work on the hot seat. Thanks to Dave for joining us today.

And we’d love to hear about the issues you’d like us to address. Be sure to let us know by leaving a positive review, wherever you listen to podcasts. You could also ask your hot seat questions there. Break Some Dishes is a surround podcast by Sandow Design Group.

Verda: Thanks to the team behind the scenes.

This episode is produced by Rob Schulte and edited by Rob. Thanks to master and dynamic for the official headphones of [00:44:00] the surround network. You can hear other podcasts like this one at surround podcast. com.



Break Some Dishes

Defying the rules to inspire design. Under the lens of creativity, Verda Alexander and Jon Strassner explore the environmental crises that face the global community.

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