London

These devices are catching litter before it ends up in lakes and rivers

The LittaTrap is a mesh basket that is inserted into a catch basin to collect cigarette butts, coffee cups and litter that would otherwise end up in the sewer system.

City of London piloting two LittaTraps in catch basins downtown

The city is piloting a device that sits inside the catch basin and collects litter before it ends up in the sewer system. (Robin De Angelis/CBC)

London is piloting a new device to keep litter from washing into the city's 32,000 catch basins and into local rivers and lakes.

The LittaTrap is a mesh basket that's inserted into a catch basin to collect cigarette butts, coffee cups and litter that would otherwise end up in the sewer system.

Two of the devices have been installed in downtown London sewer drains and city staff are now keeping an eye on what ends up inside.

"It's a relatively new technology and it's something available to us that we can actually see what is going into our catch basins throughout the city," said Brad Weber, an operations manager with the sewer operations division.

The LittaTraps are currently located in sewer drains at Bathurst Street near Wellington Street South and King Street, just south of the Covent Garden Market.

They've been in place for just under two months and Weber said staff are checking on them every two weeks.

"Thus far we've seen a small accumulation of garbage, small papers and plastic," he explained.

"We're going to keep them in year round in these locations, just to better understand if there is a pattern to what we're collecting."

The middle man

The LittaTrap was developed by Enviropod, a New Zealand-based company.  

Joe Burn, a representative with the company in Canada, said the founders were inspired to find a solution after encountering plastic and other waste in the water while diving.

Burn describes the LittaTrap as a "middle man" between the litter that ends up on the ground and the waterways that are connected to major bodies of water, like the Great Lakes.

"It sits in the middle there and makes sure all of that stuff that's coming down the drains doesn't make its way into our swimming areas and where our marine life is," he explained.

Burn says the LittaTrap is a "middle man" preventing cigarette butts, coffee cups and other litter from ending up in major bodies of water like the Great Lakes. (Envriopod.com)

An educational tool

The LittaTrap is currently being tested in other Ontario cities including Barrie, Brampton and Kitchener, as well as in other provinces. 

The company also partnered with private companies, like plastic manufacturers and supermarket chains, Burn said.

In London, Weber said the city plans to continue monitoring the two traps over the next year, before deciding to put more devices in other locations.

Burn said the company is excited to see more cities and businesses get on board, but notes that the LittaTrap is just one tool when it comes to tackling the larger problem of pollution.

"We don't necessarily see it as the most long term solution, because we know it's not realistic to get one of these in every single drain in the world," he said, adding that Enviropod has worked with schools in New Zealand to use the LittaTrap as an educational tool.

"If we can get that younger generation thinking about what's going down the stormwater drain, then we can see a lot of change in the community."

About the Author

Robin De Angelis is a multimedia journalist based in southwestern Ontario. She has previously worked as a reporter covering local news in Sudbury. Get in touch on Twitter @RobinElizabethD or by email robin.deangelis@cbc.ca

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