Capturing Debris in Florida Aquatic Preserves through Operation TRAP

Plastic debris that is collected in a canal.

The University of Florida’s Operation TRAP is strategically capturing debris before it enters Aquatic Preserves in the Big Bend and Nature Coast area of Florida and developing a toolkit for other municipalities to adopt similar strategies.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Florida

Project Dates: July 2023 - June 2027

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, the University of Florida and Florida Sea Grant are strategically enhancing infrastructure to capture debris and reduce the quantity of litter entering Aquatic Preserve waterways in the Big Bend and Nature Coast region of Florida's Gulf Coast.

What is the project and why is it important?
Single-use plastic consumption has been steadily rising since the 1950’s, leading to an increase of garbage in our rivers, streams, and oceans. A study by Borrelle et al. estimated that in 2016, as much as 23 million metric tons of plastic waste entered the ocean and waterways around the world. Most marine debris comes from human activities on land, and eventually enters the ocean and Great Lakes. Trash can be carried into the marine environment through stormwater that flows into streams, rivers, and eventually the ocean. Once it reaches the ocean, it can travel long distances and be costly and challenging to remove, and it can impact people, the economy, and ecosystems throughout its journey.  

The University of Florida is working to address this issue by partnering with local governments and Florida’s Aquatic Preserve systems to implement Operation TRAP, a project designed to intercept litter at the source before it reaches Florida's coastal waterways. Operation TRAP focuses on the installation of interception technologies, data collection, and community engagement to encourage the reduction of single use items, while capturing litter and preventing it from entering Florida’s Aquatic Preserves in the Big Bend and Nature Coast region of Florida’s Gulf Coast, which include roughly one million acres of continuous, state-managed coastal landscapes. Through this project, multiple types of proven technologies are being deployed to capture items commonly washed downstream through stormwater runoff and drainage systems. Project partners are installing LittaTraps in existing stormwater drainage systems, stretching litter booms across canal and creek waterways, and placing monofilament recycling bins at public water access points, such as boat ramps and fishing piers.

In addition, the University of Florida is working to foster change in the community through data-driven education and outreach. By stopping debris in waterways and storm drains, documenting the types of debris found, and incorporating findings into local outreach opportunities, Operation TRAP aims to reduce the quantity of debris entering coastal waters. The pilot project will serve as a case study, and results will be packaged in a Municipality Toolkit to make it easier for other coastal communities to adopt similar practices. 

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.