Coastal Cleanup Impetus for New Trash Collector

Coastal cleanup events have mobilized volunteers for decades, but the continual return of stormwater-borne litter can be discouraging for people who want to keep shorelines free of trash.

“For years I’ve been thinking about a tool, some sort of trap, that would make cleanup missions more meaningful,” said Don Bates, vice president of operations for Thompson Engineering.

A canoe tour of Three Mile Creek pushed his idea into overdrive.

Bates created the Litter Gitter prototype trap to help with cleanup. “We identified an ideal place to install the litter trap and had the partners to help the idea succeed,” he said.

Representatives from Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) and the City of Mobile’s engineering department met with Bates and participated in a site visit before approving the prototype testing at the Maple Street Tributary. The site, located on Three Mile Creek, is currently being restored to turn what was once Mobile’s drinking water system into a place for recreational activities such as canoeing and kayaking.

A new company, Osprey Initiative, was launched to produce the Litter Gitter and manage its deployment and maintenance. The first Litter Gitter was deployed at Maple Street immediately after the November 2016 cleanup and is monitored weekly.

Since installation, it has trapped more than 130 pounds of litter into the tributary through stormwater drainage pipes. Bates estimates the trap is collecting 80 to 90 percent of the floating trash entering the tributary. He is also able to sort out plastic and metal recyclables.

In March, Bates installed a secondary boom behind the Litter Gitter to better gauge its effectiveness. He found the area has remained relatively clear of littler since it was clean up last November.

The device is designed for small streams, making it easy to install and empty. Based on the success of the Maple Street prototype, MBNEP and Partners for Environmental Progress are sponsoring a pilot program and the installation of three additional Litter Gitters, two in Mobile and one in Prichard.

“The entire process has been a rewarding experience, watching so many groups come together to take on a recurring problem. We’ve been able to make a big change in a small amount of time,” said Bates.

For more information on Thompson Engineering’s litter removal efforts, contact Bates at dbates@thompsonengineering.com.

This story originally appeared in the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business View, August 2017 issue. View the original story.

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Initial tests indicate a 80+% success rate in preventing the downstream loss of floating litter. Osprey handles all aspects of installing and maintaining the Litter Gitter. Litter is separated from vegetative debris.