The California coast, considered by so many to be a treasure, is now struggling with the threat of pollution.
In Los Angeles County, an innovative device is collecting trash to stop waste from reaching the ocean. This “trash interceptor,” stationed in Venice Beach, is one of only 11 in the world – and the only one in North America.
Just this year, piles and piles of trash have washed up on Southern California beaches after recent storms. “We need to get this under control,” said Joost Dubois, spokesperson for The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands hat aims to develop technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastics.
Trash that ends up in the ocean can get there in many different ways. It can be from beachgoers who don’t pick up after themselves. It can also come indirectly from miles way, with trash on the street getting carried off into storm drains and then getting demptied into streams and rivers, eventually winding up in the ocean.
More than an eyesore, this garbage significantly harms the ocean and the marine life that depends on it.
“Unfortunately, every water body in LA County – whether the ocean, rivers, lakes, streams – they are all polluted to some level. We recommend that you don’t eat the fish that you catch, and for most of them, we probably say it’s not safe for swimming,” said Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella.
The department of public works has been working to combat pollution for years, and they recently partnered with The Ocean Cleanup. The group has a mission to clean up 90% of the world’s oceans by 2040.
“This is a big global problem, but the tools to deal with it are becoming available. It’s a matter of building out the structure that we are providing,” Dubois said.
The centerpiece of their solution is the floating trash interceptor, designed to intercept garbage before it reaches the ocean. The system is fully automated and solar-powered.
In a nod to Hollywood, the “Interceptor 007,” stationed near Venice Beach, is taking on the trash from local communities.
“The waterway runs all the way from Beverly Hills, Culver City, the other corporate areas of Los Angeles County, Ladera Heights,” Pestrella said. Because of that, he added, the location is “ideal” to target the pollution problem.
Interceptor 007 was installed in October as part of a two-year pilot program. Given that Los Angeles County has experienced one its rainiest years on record, the timing couldn’t have been better, Pestrella said.
The first year, he said, has been a success.
“We captured some 77 tons of trash, or about 154,000 pounds of trash, mostly floatables. Amazingly, a ton of it or a lot of it is actually recyclable material,” Pestrella said.
The interceptor looks like a big boat.
The system is about 79 feet long. At the entrance is a conveyor belt, which gets activated during a storm. When water comes rushing down, the system is able to detect the trash. NBC4 saw plastic bottles, a tennis ball and even a mattress.
The garbage then gets funneled and pulled up with the conveyor belt. It then gets distributed into six dumpsters.
“Once they are all full, a message will get sent to public works and that’s when they will come and offload the trash,” The Ocean Cleanup Senior Partnerships Manager Sarah Schaeffer said.
The LA County public works department will look at next year’s evidence and decide whether or not they’ll keep the Interceptor 007 around. The Ocean Cleanup says the interceptor is making an impact, but the ultimate solution and responsibility is in the hands of everyday people.
“The interceptor is creating so much awareness, so much attention because it’s a very visible thing, and at the end of course, this is not the solution,” Dubois said. “We should not be taking trash out to the water. You should prevent it from ending up there in the first place.”
Source: NBC Los Angeles