LA County and Ocean Cleanup Launch The Interceptor – Keeping Trash From Our Ocean

The Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor officially launched on Oct. 22, 2022 in a ceremony at the end of Ballona Creek, attended by county and city officials, a non-profit CEO, and a crowd eager to hear how it would all work. A partnership between Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Public Works and Ocean Cleanup, The Interceptor is a barge-like system that is completely solar powered and is aimed to be a scalable solution that could be deployed around the world’s rivers. This is a pilot project set for two years, after which data will be assessed to help inform more ways to reduce garbage and keep the coast clean.

A small information fair was set in the area close to the channel and the beach, with booths from Ballona Creek Renaissance, Black Girls Surf, Friends of the Ballona Wetlands and other non-profits groups that have been part of the push to get the project in the water. 

Deborah Gregory. President of the BCR, was enthused. “We are so pleased that the day has finally arrived, we’ve been picking up trash by hand for decades now, and this is going to be a game-changer.”   

Second District Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell began by reminding the crowd “We all have a role to play as stewards of our land and our coast.” Mitchell gave some basics; “Ballona Creek is a nine mile long waterway that protect 1.5 million people as a flood control channel. It also carries more than 30 tons of trash every year, and all that ends up at the beaches and in the ocean.”

The Interceptor vessel, know by its number “007” is set to be “a crucial part of our county’s response” to dealing with garbage overflow. “We have set the goal of attaining real world data to find out how effective this is – our hope is that the data from this project can lead to additional trash interceptor systems to be used.” 

The next speaker, Mark Pestrella, Director of Los Angeles County Public Works, outed himself as a surfer who knew that we needed to do more, and at the same time, wondered if this was the answer. “We will be very excited to have this data, and we hope that this is a pivot point.” 

Deborah Gregory, President of Ballona Creek Renaissance, offered her remarks as did Lucy Han, Founder of Friends of the Jungle and Rhonda Harper, Founder of Black Girls Surf. 

Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, spoke to the crowd as the creator of the Interceptor, and noted that vessels 008 and 009 were already in place and working to clean waterways in Jamaica. The Dutchman from Delft is one of the prominent young eco-activists taking a hands-on approach to saving the planet. 

Slat offered that  “1,000 of the world’s most polluted rivers are responsible for roughly 80% of the world’s plastic pollution. In an effort to ‘close the tap’ and drastically reduce the amount of plastic entering the world’s oceans, Interceptors are being placed at the mouths of rivers all over the world, keeping river trash from becoming ocean trash.”

While several speakers joked about Slat’s youth – he is 28 – Mitchell also made it a point to thank “the engaged and committed students of Culver City High School.  Our next generation of leaders are already here.”

The Interceptor will be part of the seascape, sweeping in trash that has eluded the nets farther upstream, for at least the next two years. Once the information is processed, the next steps will be announced. 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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