Apr 22, 2024 - News

"Litter Gitters" are cleaning New Orleans' waterways

Photo shows one of Osprey's litter gitter in the water with trash going into it.

Osprey Initiative created a floating "Litter Gitter" to trap trash in waterways. Photo: Courtesy of Osprey Initiative

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.

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