When it was placed at the end of Ballona Creek in late October of 2022, no one could have foreseen what a challenging first year the Interceptor would have as a pilot project. The vessel, which filters trash from the creek before it gets to the ocean, had to deal with the rainiest winter since 1884. Not just one torrent of water coming down the creek, but more than a dozen, all of them sweeping trash off the city streets and out to the ocean.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times, estimates say the experimental vessel prevented 155,000 pounds of garbage from reaching the ocean.
L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors maintenance crews noted “a 75% reduction” in trash along local beaches adjacent to the interceptor.
According to Mark Pestrella, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Director, this first year “had all the challenges we wanted it to have – heavy pollutants, and lots of flow.” The device, created by Boyan Slat of the Dutch non-profit Ocean Cleanup, will be donated to the county if officials deem its two-year pilot a success.
How does all that happen?
The vessel is anchored a few hundred yards from where Ballona Creek meets the Pacific, and its twin booms reach over to the shore, Using a unique solar powered system to capture trash, lifting objects from the water. A conveyor belt then deposits the garbage into dumpsters, where it awaits personnel for manual removal.
The system was created by Slat, the leader and founder of Ocean Cleanup. At the installation ceremony on October, 22, 2022, he told a story about going on a fishing trip, only to discover that there was more plastic than fish in the water. Slat stated “One thousand 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.”
The first year for the vessel dubbed ‘007’ – vessels ‘008’ and ‘009’ are working in Jamaica – has been more successful than anyone anticipated, dealing with far more rain and water than had been projected for the pilot.