How organizations around the globe are using trash traps to create awareness of plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is a global problem that requires localized solutions. Whether on land or in the water, cleanup plays an important role as part of the solution to tackling the global issue of plastic pollution. The International Trash Trap Network (ITTN) aims to increase global cleanup efforts using trash traps, technologies designed to capture and divert waste from local waterways, capturing a range of items from large anthropogenic debris to microplastics, while becoming monitoring tools for local waterway pollution. What’s more, trash traps also have the unique potential to become centrepieces for education and outreach. By communicating with the public about how they work and the waste they collect, organizations can show how plastic pollution is reaching our local waterways and demonstrate how cleanup be a part of the solution.
We caught up with members of the ITTN to hear more about how they’re using trash traps for education and outreach to inspire positive change in our communities!
Meet Inspector Seabin: Using Signage to Raise Awareness
Trash traps naturally tend to attract the attention of locals and passers-by, curious about what is before their eyes. To harness this captive audience, eye-catching signs and posters help answer their curiosity while at the same time sharing details of the local trash trap initiative. In Tobermory (Canada), Sources of Knowledge have created three Inspector Seabin signs by the docks near each of the Seabins. Each charismatic sign has a QR code leading to a website all about the Seabins, plastic pollution, and what individuals can do to help.
All about the Dumpster Dive: Events to Connect the Community
Sorting through trash can be messy, but it is also a great opportunity to bring people together and create a tangible learning experience. Once a year the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore in the United States hosts a ‘Dumpster Dive’ where the community come together to count and categorize items collected by the family of Baltimore Trash Wheels. This event is heavily attended by locals and visiting Trash Wheel fans (like us)! Events such as the dumpster dive offer a unique opportunity for the community to engage in data collection and see first-hand the waste items pollution from their local waterways. This fosters a sense of ownership among the community and connects people with a mutual interest, with the potential to create a ripple effect extending beyond the event itself.
Say hello to Tangle: An Exploration of Visual Communication through Art
Once the waste captured by trash traps has been sorted and data has been collected, plastics still have a rich use for outreach. The visual they provide is helpful when communicating with the public, and the U of T Trash Team have several examples of plastic pollution collected by our trash traps that we bring to events. For example, when talking about the many different sources that microplastics can originate from, we have a jar containing microplastics of different sizes, colours and shapes.
Artwork can also be an effective way to communicate, one with the potential to reach new audiences with diverse perspectives, opening up even more potential for inspiring discussion. This year, Emily Chudnovsky, artist in residence with the U of T Trash Team, collected plastics diverted by trash traps in the Toronto Harbour. Items included microplastics, plastic bags, and cigarette butts. By intertwining these plastics with natural materials, she created ‘Tangle’, a floating sculpture exhibited in the Peter Street Basin to convey the quiet yet critical role of plants in accumulating plastic from our waterways.
CLEAR Rivers: Educational Programs to Connect with Youth Groups
Youth groups are powerful advocates for change, and so trash traps and plastic pollution can also be included in local educational programs. CLEAR rivers are an organization who work in several countries to install trash traps and empower communities to reduce local plastic pollution. In Ambon, Indonesia they are working to install a Litter Trap, and currently collaborate with the University of Pattimura to run an educational program, visiting local schools and speaking with the students about plastic pollution, how to avoid single-use plastics, and how plastics can be reused and recycled to minimize waste. Through this educational program CLEAR rivers aim to empower them to organise their own events such as cleanups or workshops and to make long-term changes to waste generation within their communities.
There are plenty of examples of how groups around the world are taking their local plastic pollution problem and turning it into an opportunity for education and outreach. By taking advantage of trash traps and plastics to create visual impact, hands-on learning opportunities and community collaboration, we can provide individuals with the knowledge and inspiration to continue to reduce plastic pollution in their local communities and waterways.
If you have a trash trap and are looking to increase your impact through local education and outreach, The International Trash Trap Network has Trash Trap Educational Activities! This includes an Educator’s Guide and Workbook for participants. Follow the links below to get started.
Written by Hannah De Frond. Hannah works with Ocean Conservancy and the University of Toronto Trash Team to coordinate the International Trash Trap Network with the goal to expand the use of trash trapping technologies to increase cleanup efforts and to document their collective impact.