PortsToronto Spearheads Innovative Trash Trapping to Cleanse Urban Waterways

toronto at night inner city city scape

Photo by Mvrkle on Unsplash

by | Mar 29, 2024

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Between May and October 2023, PortsToronto’s deployment of advanced trash trapping devices, including eight Seabins and two WasteSharks, marked a pivotal moment in the fight against urban water pollution. The initiative successfully extracted 43 kilograms of waste, prodominantly small plastic debris, from the waters of Toronto Harbor. This collaborative effort between PortsToronto and the University of Toronto Trash Team is an example of a growing trend of leveraging technology to tackle environmental challenges in urban settings.

A Coalition Against Pollution

Under the leadership of RJ Steenstra, President and CEO of PortsToronto, a unique coalition of organizations has united to employ innovative solutions that harness new technology alongside local research and trades to address the pervasive issue of water pollution. This collaborative endeavor highlights the problem of floating debris and plastic pollution, which plagues urban waterways globally. It showcases Toronto’s proactive stance in seeking and implementing solutions that make a tangible difference.

The Results and Beyond

The trash trapping program has yielded significant insights into the nature and volume of pollutants plaguing Toronto Harbor. Among the debris, microplastics, cigarette butts, and fatbergs were notably prevalent, with microplastics being the most common by count. This detailed analysis aids in understanding the extent of pollution and helps identify its sources and potential upstream solutions.

In August 2023, the introduction of two WasteShark aquadrones marked a Canadian first in trash collection technology. These devices demonstrated remarkable efficiency, collecting 19.2 kilograms of debris in just three outings. Such innovations indicate a promising future for the use of technology in environmental preservation efforts, capable of addressing pollution in areas previously inaccessible or overlooked.

Forward Momentum

Since its inception in 2019, the Trash Trapping Program has focused on employing both technology and research to understand and mitigate the impact of floating debris in Toronto’s harbor. The ongoing collaboration with the University of Toronto Trash Team highlights the importance of data-driven approaches to environmental challenges, paving the way for informed policy and behavioral changes aimed at reducing pollution at its source.

This initiative is a component of the broader Toronto Inner Harbor Floatables Strategy, aiming to diminish plastic pollution and floating litter through a variety of trapping methods and locations, including storm drains. As PortsToronto and its partners continue to push the boundaries of environmental innovation, their efforts serve as an example for urban waterways around the globe, showcasing the power of collaboration, technology, and research.

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