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Nearly 100,000 pieces of plastic removed from the Toronto Harbour. Here's what else was found

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The team behind Toronto’s Trash Trapping Program Network says it removed close to 100,000 small pieces of plastic from the city’s harbour last year.

PortsToronto, in partnership with the University of Toronto’s so called “Trash Team,” said they caught 92,891 pieces of pollution between May and September through the use of 10 Seabins -- which are positioned near the water’s surface and suck trash into a catch bag with a pump.

“Seven U of T Trash Team research assistants worked daily throughout the summer to empty PortsToronto’s Seabins and quantify and characterize what we diverted from Lake Ontario,” Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Head of Operations at the U of T Trash Team, said in a news release issued Wednesday.

In addition to the Seabins, the program also removed thousands of pieces of trash using a device called a LittaTrap, which are placed in storm drains throughout the Queens Quay area, as well as skimming the surface water in the harbor to divert a total of 96,208 pieces of waste between all three methods.

By weight, the program removed 118.15 kilograms of anthropogenic (originating from human activity) debris and microplastics, which PortsToronto said can harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water.

A Seabin is seen in this undated image.

The top 10 large items of debris caught in 2022 include:

  1. Plastic film
  2. Plastic fragments
  3. Cigarette butts
  4. Foam
  5. Food wrappers
  6. Plastic bottle caps
  7. Paper
  8. Plastic cigar tips
  9. Plastic bags
  10. Plastic bottles

Also found, and for the first time in the four years of the program, were dozens of “fatbergs,” which PortsToronto describes as “rock-like masses” formed by the combination of fat, grease, and wastewater materials including wet wipes and diapers.

“In 2022, PortsToronto Seabins collected more than 100 fatbergs, a powerful reminder to residents of the city to consider carefully what is washed down the drain,” the group said.

PortsToronto President and CEO RJ Steenstra said he was “encouraged” by the progress made by the program so far amid a rise in plastic pollution that he believes “seriously threatens the sustainability and biodiversity” of the city’s lakes and waterways.

“[We] look forward to continuing to learn from waste collected by trash-capturing devices like Seabins here at home and worldwide as part of the International Trash Trap Network in an effort to educate, change behaviour and ultimately preserve our waterways for future generations,” Steenstra said.

To read the full 2022 report, click here.

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