The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), which is the leading nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of public parks, recently partnered up with beverage giant Coca-Cola to install trash trap systems in southwest Atlanta. The initiative seeks to keep pollution out of estuaries the Proctor Creek feeds into, such as the Chattahoochee River, and ultimately the ocean.

As a 9-mile tributary of the Chattahoochee River, Proctor Creek experiences both stormwater runoff and flooding. The water runoff that moves the trash from storm drains empties into Proctor Creek and is then conveyed into connecting waterways.

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With the catchment system in operation, floating litter can be intercepted in the water runoff. Collected rubbish and debris are then guided into a larger collection container. Both the NRPA and Coca-Cola explained that the trash traps are technologically designed to prevent harm to fish and wildlife, for they do not use nets nor fencing.

With a trash-free watershed, the surrounding communities’ water quality will be revitalized. Revitalization will also improve the overall quality of life for the region. Current estimates are that the traps reduce litter by 80 percent so that Proctor Creek is relatively cleaner before entering the Chattahoochee River.

Coca-Cola is notorious for its massive plastic footprint. But just last month, in August 2019, Coca-Cola and its rival, PepsiCo Inc., both announced their departures from the leading plastics lobbying group, the Plastic Industry Association. Coca-Cola has deployed its global World Without Waste goal to recycle and reuse the equivalent of all the bottles and cans it sells by 2030. Additionally, Coca-Cola plans to recycle and reuse the bottles collected by the trash traps to transform them into graduation gowns for Atlanta Public Schools’ high school seniors.

With this trash trap project, Coca-Cola is commercially maneuvering even closer toward a more environmentally friendly stance, perhaps to dispel its long-standing negative image as the world’s largest plastic polluter.

Coca-Cola noted in its news release, “The visibility of the trash traps, educational programming and creation of local green jobs associated with the project will facilitate lasting change and foster environmental, economic and social benefits in the area.”

Other stakeholders in the waterway improvement plan include the city of Atlanta, the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Groundwork Atlanta, Park Pride and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some of these partners will analyze data on the trash collection to document trends and detail effectiveness of the project design to inform best practices for optimal litter mitigation strategies.

+ Coca-Cola

+ NRPA

Image via Shawn Taylor