Through the EPA Trash Free Great Lakes grant, the City of Toledo has received approximately $415,000 for the two objectives of the grant:

  1. install multiple trash capture devices in waterways within 5 river miles of Lake Erie to reduce the amount of trash that gets to the lake via our waterways.
  2. improve and expand educational and outreach activities and events about the huge negative impact of trash on our health and local economy.

These traps help build awareness by making the issue more visible; residents can easily see the amounts and types of debris that is being captured. Debris and trash often stay hidden until storms and rain move the trash from nearby land and storm sewer systems into waterways.

What is a Trash Trapper?

A trash capture device, also known as a trash trap, is a mechanical system consisting of a floating boom and net that funnels and gathers floating debris before it can reach primary waterways like streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Where Will the Devices be Located?

The devices will be installed in four areas of the City to see how much and what types of trash are generated based on that area. For example, in the industrial area of Stickney and Matzinger, does more trash make it into the Ottawa River than the downtown commercial area and Swan Creek? Is the trash mostly food and beverage containers or something else? How does the amount of trash compare to a residential area, such as Point Place?

Summary of Grant Activities

This project will reduce the amount of trash in waterways that flow directly to Lake Erie and thus prevent hazardous debris and contaminants from entering recreational waters and fisheries of the Maumee River and Lake Erie tributaries. We will install/maintain trash collection devices and host education/outreach activities within a 5-river mile area from Lake Erie. Community clean-ups and meetings will be held with neighborhoods for education and outreach. The type and amounts of trash will be gathered by a University of Toledo team for research purposes. The devices will be maintained a minimum of 3 years beyond the grant period. The results of the various parts of the project will be shared via social media, this webpage, and conference presentations.

The educational and outreach activities will be focused on the neighborhoods close to the devices but they will also be part of other regular Toledo events so the word gets out to as many residents as possible.

We hope to be able to physically remove thousands of pounds of trash from our waterways before it gets to Lake Erie, thus cleaning our recreational areas and improving the water quality of our drinking water source, and, more importantly, reducing trash from getting to the waterways in the first place by changing the behavior and habits of our residents and visitors.

Why Do We Care?

The Toledo area is currently experiencing a revitalization and it is becoming ever more important for us to take better care of our communal spaces and resources. We also need to get litter out of our parks, rivers and streams, lake, and off our highways and out of our neighborhoods. When people evaluate a city to live in, visit, or bring business to, cleanliness is one aspect they evaluate in making their decision. Our litter is costing us money and holding us back: it has cost Ohio taxpayers $37 million for the Ohio Department of Transportation since 2007 to pick up other people’s garbage. In addition to costing money, it impacts the housing market, diminishes a sense of community, and reduces a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Despite many years of education, trash continues to be a major problem for aquatic ecosystems and the Great Lakes. Trash is not just unsightly; it brings environmental risks such as entanglement, ingestion, and, as with plastics, binding of other contaminants in the environment. Marine debris can maim and/or kill wildlife, damage habitats, impact navigational safety, cause economic loss to fishing and maritime industries, reduce the quality of life in coastal communities, and threaten human health and safety.

Great Lakes nearshore areas are a valuable ecological and economic resource: they provide drinking water for municipalities and critical habitat for numerous species of birds, fish, and other aquatic life, contribute significantly to the economies of the Great Lakes states (an average of 41% in 2007) and support economic activities like marine transportation, tourism and recreation, living marine resources, marine construction, and ship and boat building, (nearly 1.5 million jobs in 2009). These resources are under increasing pressure from a variety of stressors, one of which is the environmental and economic impact of trash.

Project Partners

Trash Trapper Partners

The City of Toledo will work with its partner organizations, Partners for Clean Streams (PCS), University of Toledo (UToledo), Keep Toledo-Lucas County Beautiful (KT/LCB), Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments (TMACOG), and Toledo Public Schools (TPS) among others over a 2-year period to accomplish the goals of the project.

This project was made possible by the City of Toledo receiving financial support in the amount of $413,970 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) via the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.