LA County using Dutch nonprofit's device to keep trash out of the Pacific Ocean

Phillip Palmer Image
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
LA County using new Interceptor device to keep trash out of ocean
The Interceptor serves as a last line of defense against trash flowing into the Pacific Ocean by way of Ballona Creek.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new device recently installed in Los Angeles is helping block tons of garbage from floating out into the Pacific Ocean.

The Interceptor, made by the Dutch nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup, serves as a last line of defense against trash flowing into the ocean by way of Ballona Creek.

The Interceptor was introduced to Los Angeles County in October of this year and the area's recent rainfall is putting the system to the test.

"It really works," said local resident Wei Ghang. "They block a lot of garbage."

The 120 square miles of watershed up stream are a source of more than water. Garbage corralled by the Interceptor is taken by barge to Playa Del Rey where it is offloaded, sorted and taken to the landfill.

The Ocean Cleanup is partnering with LA County for a two-year pilot project. It's the first Interceptor in North America and in this kind of urban environment each storm that comes is a learning experience.

"This most recent storm, the wind and water was choppier than in our previous storm experience," said Steve Frasher with LA County Public Works. "That required a little bit of innovation to make sure that we're capturing as much of the trash with the boom when there's waves trying to push it past the boom."

Last winter, 30 tons of trash were captured at the Lincoln trash boom, which is a previously-installed device separate from the Interceptor.

This year, even with the boom still in place, the Interceptor has kept 10 tons of trash from reaching the ocean. That's not counting what came from the most recent storm.

So where does all this trash in the water come from?

"The source of the trash is you and me," Frasher said. "People upstream, our communities, the coffee cups, the soda bottles - just casual discards that end up in the stormwater system, in the creek and get caught behind the boom at the Interceptor."

The most effective way to reduce the amount of garbage reaching the ocean is very simple: Throw your garbage away.

But the lessons learned here in LA will make the Interceptor more effective as the project expands.

"It's a chance to be at the cutting edge of innovative technology and to be able to set the stage and tell the story," Frasher said. "It's exciting for everybody in this kind of field."