Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor aims to clean up the ocean

Each year, Los Angeles County Public Works says as much as 30 tons of trash and debris end up in the Ballona Creek, which leads straight to the Pacific Ocean.

“Ideally, those soda bottles, water bottles, the containers from fast-food restaurants, that wouldn’t even find its way into the creek, but once it’s in the creek, we need to find a way to prevent it from getting into the ocean, from washing up on our beaches, and from polluting our marine environments,” said LA County Public Works spokesperson Kerjon Lee.

What You Need To Know

  • The solar-powered interceptor sits on the water, where it collects and filters trash through a conveyor system
  • The two-year pilot program is the first of its kind in the United States
  • It’s a partnership between the Dutch nonprofit “The Ocean Cleanup” and Los Angeles County
  • Construction started in June and is expected to wrap up in September

The trash interceptor is part of a new project for Lee and his coworkers.

“We are testing out the Ballona Creek Trash Intercepter as one of the many ways that we hope to keep trash from entering the ocean,” he said.

The interceptor is basically a solar powered catamaran that floats atop the water and collects trash before it ends up in the ocean.

“There are two trash booms that are deployed to capture trash, filter it into a conveyor system that then brings the floating trash into bins that fill up and then those bins are emptied,” Lee said.

A Dutch group called The Ocean Cleanup has partnered with la county to provide the technology for free during a two-year trial run. The nonprofit’s primary goal is to rid the world’s oceans of plastic and debris. They’ll use the Ballona Creek to test the waters, so to speak, for the first time in the U.S.

“We have an operator that’s onboard to analyze the trash and recyclables, separate the trash, pull the recyclables in for reuse,” Lee said.

Three moorings from the trash interceptor project are currently being built. Lee says those moorings will anchor the interceptor to the north and south jetties. Construction has closed one jetty at a time, frustrating some residents, especially during the busy summer beach season, but LA County Public Works says it’s important to get the interceptor installed before LA County’s storm season, typically between October and April.

Environmental experts estimate plastic waste makes up about 80% of marine pollution and most of that pollution comes from urban runoff during a storm.

“It gets into catch basins and finds its way into the creek or the channel. If that trash is not stopped from going into the ocean, it eventually washes up on beaches and fouls up marine environments,” Lee said.

LA County Public Works says construction is expected to wrap up in September and it will deploy the interceptor in October.

“We’re hopeful that this is going to be a successful trial run and a model for future use throughout the united states and the world,” Lee said.

Using a little innovation to turn the tide on trash.

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