Waste Capture and Audit of Catch Basin LittaTraps(TM) in Downtown St. John’s
Plastic is a part of everyday life for most Canadians and is an integrated part of the world’s economy given the material’s versatility, durability, and low manufacturing costs. However, on April 23, 2021, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 added plastic manufactured items as a schedule 1 toxic substance. This addition was supported by increasing evidence that the release of plastic waste into the environment through activities such as littering, flooding, or accidental release (ex. Wind), poses an ecological hazard, including physical harm, to some animals and their habitat1. Given the nature of plastic pollution and the connectivity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, plastic pollution that occurs on land is often carried by rainwater, to catch basins, and into streams, rivers, and oceans. There is a lack of information regarding the seasonal and spatial variability of inorganic debris, particularly macro-plastics accumulation, in downtown St. John’s. Macro-plastics, referred to as being plastic that is larger than 5mm in size, account for the majority of plastic emissions volume into oceans and warrant further examination. An approach that characterizes and quantifies macro-plastics, and their spatial and seasonal variability can provide valuable information that can inform better waste diversion and waste management practices.
In a new project that builds on the organization’s previous waste diversion and reduction initiatives, funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), NAACAP is communicating closely and consulting with the City of St. John’s when deploying and auditing inorganic debris that accumulates in LittaTrapsTM in catch basins at 30 locations across downtown St. John’s. This debris will be systematically collected, photographed, and categorized according to trash collection and audit protocols developed by NAACAP, in collaboration with DFO. Collection and audits will be completed on a minimum monthly basis, with more frequent collection in the first month following installation, and as needed based on debris accumulation and the occurrence of extreme weather events. Sampling will occur throughout the summer and fall of 2021 to help establish seasonal variability, if any, in debris in downtown St. John’s.
In addition to diverting inorganic waste from the ocean, and the generation of valuable insight into debris accumulation in the St. John’s urban center, this project will provide opportunities for public and industry outreach. In an effort to engage the public and local interest in marine conservation, trash audit data will be shared on social media (no data will be shared on social media with respect to individual businesses), as well as on open-source data platforms such as Marine Debris Tracker, in order to foster awareness of litter accumulation in downtown storm drains, and subsequent runoff into the St. John’s Harbour. A final report summarizing all monthly trash audit data will be created and shared on NAACAP’s website and social media upon completion of this project.
Enviropod website link: https://www.enviropod.com/