Like many maritime cities, Toronto’s waterfront leaks trash into Lake Ontario with every rainfall – especially after heavy falls. An ageing sewer and stormwater system is particularly porous, and debris can be seen floating through the waterways. Of course, it’s worse than unsightly – it can be deadly to aquatic life and damage the ecosystem.
Since 2019, students at the University of Toronto who have formed the U of T Trash Team have joined forces with the City of TorontoWater & Environment to trap litter from the stormwater system before it enters the harbour.
Understanding the trash loading of downtown Toronto is key to preventing litter from making its way into the stormwater system. To capture this data as well as the litter, Toronto Water & Environment chose LittaTrap. While there are other products in the market, LittaTraps were chosen because they were the only filters capable of being modified for non-standard catch basins. They are also simple to install and be easily lifted out, tipped and reused – with no special equipment required.
Ten LittaTraps were installed near the waterfront in popular tourist areas where there was significant foot traffic. To indicate the LittaTrap locations – catchbasin grates have been painted green and special plaques installed to explain and promote the fight against floatables! Complete with a QR code that takes the reader to the U of T Trash Team’s website.
The catch data from the LittaTraps is being used to help Toronto Water & Environment and the Ports of Toronto select the best locations for future trash capture devices.
While this is initially a one-year pilot project, the LittaTraps are already providing valuable data.
“LittaTraps are helping us quantify and characterize the litter collected and measure our impact…these traps and data collected will also be part of the International Trash Trap network.” Says the U of T Trash Team.
Using passive screening, LittaTraps can be customized to meet site-specific requirements with interchangeable performance liners ranging from 100 to 1000+ micron pore size. In other words, if you wanted to target a particular size of pollutant, you can.
"It has been a pleasure being a part of this project. The LittaTrap installation was successful. It was easy to install with slight modifications. The LittaTraps functioned well to catch debris such as cigarettes, plastics and other nonorganic materials."
Jodie Caputo, Operational Service Worker at City of Toronto Water & Environment
Surprisingly in this age of smoking decline, cigarette butts are still one of the leading items caught by the LittaTraps. Most people don’t realise that the filter part of the butt is actually plastic, which is why they float and why that can take forever to break down. They are now on the top of the U of T TrashTeam’s hit-list and they have started their own advertising campaign to make people understand that cigarette butts are plastic and should be disposed of more thoughtfully.
"In Summer, 2022, we diverted more than 6000 pieces of litter from Lake Ontario. This included more than 1500 cigarette butts. Hopefully you wouldn’t throw a plastic bottle on the ground, so why through a cigarette butt on the ground ?.” Says Chelsea Rochman of the University of Toronto Trash Team.
The LittaTraps will continue to be used to keep trash and plastic from reaching Lake Ontario and the Toronto Harbour.