South Florida cities utilizing high-tech screens to keep litter out of Biscayne Bay and local waterways

The City of Miami has finally installed the first batch of high-tech storm inlet screens to help reduce all the street litter that’s polluting Biscayne Bay.

Miami is not the only South Florida city stepping up to try and fight the growing litter program with this new technology.

Videos taken just last month by volunteers with clean a beach up show what the shores of Biscayne Bay look like every time the region experiences a heavy rain.

Pounds and pounds of street litter, trash people throw on the street no matter where they are in Miami-Dade County, gets swept into storm drains that empty out into canals that outflow into the dying bay.

Emilio Lopez is on the front lines of South Florida’s war on trash.

Local 10 News spoke with him last year when his company SOP Technologies was measuring the curbed inlets in southwest Miami to install high tech screens designed to trap all the street litter before it enters the storm water system.

“The trash should never make it to the street in the first place, and I think it’s important to educate the public as much as we can,” Lopez said. “In the City of Miami, we started off with District Two, which is more than Downtown, Overtown area, with 195 (screens) that were installed. Those are going to be looked at and monitored, just like the initial ones for the pilot project.”

The City of Miami has ordered one thousands of the screens to help manage the enormous amount of street litter.

The first batch were finally installed in May.

“We’re seeing some good things and bad things,” said Lopez. “We’re seeing an accumulation of trash in front of some of them, which is good because they’re doing their job. And then of course, a bad thing is that we’re seeing trash.”

That’s because people continue to litter, so South Florida cities now must spend tens of thousands of dollars because some people still haven’t learned how to use a trash can.

“The next step is really how do you address the root of the problem where you have a hotspot of trash? And those are things that might take a little longer to address,” said Lopez.

QR codes on plaques strategically placed on the sidewalk above each screen help residents learn about South Florida’s pollution problem, engaging them to be part of the solution by reporting when the screens become cluttered with litter.

“A picture tells 1000 words,” said Lopez. “They can easily upload a photo of what they’re seeing, and then that informs the city as to what it is that the people are seeing in a specific area.”

It’s important that the city remove the clutter as soon as possible to prevent street flooding, but the new screens are designed for that very purpose.

“What we designed that’s unique…is the upward flow of water through the screen,” said Lopez. “So instead of just having a flat piece of metal that has circles in it that actually clogs very quickly, this does not clog as quickly. It allows the city to have time to come by and they sweep the street, or in some cases, if they have to clean a little bit more they do.”

The screens also have a proven track record. Key West, South Miami and Aventura all use them, and Local 10 News was there when Hallandale Beach installed them last August.

“They are working. I couldn’t be more excited about them,” said Charles Casimir, the Assistant Director of Hallandale Beach’s Department of Public Works. “Our waterways have reduced the amount of trash and leaves and debris. Now that has dropped tremendously.”

Residents are also noticing the difference.

“They are good, people,” said Hallandale Beach resident Pini Dagan. “They are keeping the canal clean.”

Dagan pointed out a group of ducks, something that had not been seen before the screens were installed, meaning new wildlife was being attracted to the area.

It’s also saving the City of Hallandale Beach money by helping public works manage street litter more efficiently.

“Since we’ve implemented the storm water filters, just our street sweeper can clean up all of the debris, all of the trash that was in the road,” said Casimir. “This way we can allocate the other workers and others parts throughout the city to maintain our other waterways.”

Lopez is hoping more coastal cities in South Florida will also follow suit.

“That’s how you really drive action,” he said. “Everybody has a huge ability to make an impact.”

The next batch of 200 screens will be installed in the City of Miami by the end of the summer.

North Bay Village has also ordered around 50 screens for its storm water inlets.

The screens are not cheap, costing anywhere from $350 to $1000 each. It’s the price our cities now have to pay because some people still would rather toss their trash on the street or out their window instead of simply finding a trash can.

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