“Litter Gitters” are cleaning New Orleans’ waterways

Metro New Orleans is getting extra help catching trash before it winds up in Lake Pontchartrain and then the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: Marine debris injures and kills wildlife, creates problems for boats and degrades quality of life for coastal residents, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The big picture: Waterborne garbage from nearly half the country ends up in Louisiana due to the state’s location at the bottom of the Mississippi River, writes Axios’ Chelsea Brasted.

  • Plus, severe weather and the state’s swamps, marshes and other waterways create clean-up challenges.

Driving the news: The Pontchartrain Conservancy partnered with Alabama-based Osprey Initiative to put litter traps in canals in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

  • Osprey has other traps on the North Shore.

Between the lines: When it rains, stormwater goes into drainage canals and then flows into Lake Pontchartrain.

How it works: The “Litter Gitters” use booms to funnel floating trash into the collection basket, Osprey owner and president Don Bates tells Axios New Orleans.

  • The traps are good at collecting trash that is blown into the water by wind or carried in with stormwater, Bates said.
  • They are cleaned regularly by staffers.

By the numbers: The south shore currently has two “Litter Gitters” and two additional booms in canals in Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

Yes, but: The “Litter Gitter” in the Morrison Road canal was stolen and is in the process of being replaced, Trail said.

The intrigue: The bigger, motorized trash robots won’t work in New Orleans, Trail said, citing the fluctuating water levels and the waves in the lake.

  • But she said leaders will continue to look at options as new ones come online, like this AI-powered, self-driving Clearbot.

Zoom in: The most common trash in the “Litter Gitters” is food-related like styrofoam cups, plastic bottles and takeout containers, Bates said.

  • Statewide, plastic is the No. 1 source of litter, according to Keep Lousiana Beautiful.
  • Globally, plastic is also the most common type of marine debris, the Fish and Wildlife Service says.

What’s next: The Pontchartrain Conservancy is working to get more litter traps added in metro New Orleans.

  • Osprey is adding more traps nationally too, Bates said, and creating reusable bags for recycling at events.
  • And they are testing ways of keeping the collected styrofoam out of landfills by grinding it up and using it in concrete.

Go deeper:

This story originally appeared on Axios New Orleans by Carlie Kollath Wells. View the original story online here.


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The patented Litter Gitter is a tactical in-stream litter collection device used to intercept floating litter from stormwater runoff. The Osprey team handles all aspects of installing and maintaining these “trash traps” and compiles data on the items caught in them, recycling as much of the litter as possible.