A plan to make Proctor Creek trash free got a boost recently with a $350,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Company.
Proctor Creek, one of 19 locations in the country designated as an Urban Waters Federal Partnership in 2013, runs from downtown Atlanta and empties into the Chattahoochee River near I-285. The federal partnership is designed to help revitalize neglected urban waterways.
For years, the creek has been the site of tire dumping, plastic bottles, mattresses and other trash collecting around the creek bed. The litter traps may help bring an 80% reduction in the amount of trash floating in the creek.
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The grant from Coca-Cola supports the installation of litter catchers along the watershed which are designed to trap floating litter before it flows into the creek. An additional $50,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation supports the maintenance of the systems, said Jon Radtke, Director of Water Sustainability, Coca-Cola North America.
“We understand there is a plastic problem in this world and some of our packaging ends up in the wrong place so we have a role to play there,” Radtke said. While much of the company’s effort has been focused on curbside recycling and the root cause of litter getting into the environment, Radtke said the company has also been thinking about how to increase the recovery and collection of materials they put out there.
In 2018, Coca-Cola produced about 117 billion plastic bottles globally, according to the company’s sustainability report. In January of that year, the brand introduced its World Without Waste initiative with the goal of collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030. The effort includes making sure all packages are 100% recyclable by 2025 and that the material that goes into packages be made of 50% recyclable material by 2030.
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Coca-Cola is a partner in the 2019 work plan for Proctor Creek, specifically for the Trash Free Waters project along with several other organizations including the City of Atlanta , Groundwork Atlanta and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Grant money will pay for five Litter Gitters — a basket-style catcher attached to the river bank with floating booms — that run less than $10,000 each and can be moved from place to place.
In January, a larger, more permanent litter trapper called the Bandalong will be installed. A Bandalong litter trap can run $100,000 or more depending on the area where it is being installed. It also floats on waterways but is supported by polyethylene pipes held in place by chains attached to anchors or poles. Collection booms funnel litter through a one-way gate where trash is held until removed.
The trash traps are installed at four different park sites throughout the Proctor Creek Watershed including Grove Park, Center Hill Park, Proctor Creek Greenway-Boyd Elementary and the future Proctor Park.
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An additional $50,000 in funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation will cover the cost for employees from the City of Atlanta and Groundwork Atlanta to be hired and trained on maintenance and management of the systems for one year, Radtke said.
The hope is that the litter traps will intercept about 80 percent of the floating trash that goes down Proctor Creek, he said, and if all goes well, the plan is to install the systems in waterways nationwide.
Previously, in 2016, the City of Atlanta announced plans for a 12-week pilot program to hire 20 community members to help clean the Proctor Creek watershed and stream corridor of litter, debris and illegal dumping.
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