LOS ANGELES – It’s a heartbreaking sight, plastic bottles and Styrofoam creeping down the almost nine-mile-long Ballona Creek just before flowing into the Pacific Ocean; the result of 130 square miles of storm drain water washing into the area.

By 2050, it's estimated that there will be more trash in the ocean than fish. Currently there are eight million metric tons of trash in our oceans, the equivalent of 57,000 blue whales. And by far the biggest contributors are rivers and waterways.  

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“It’s such an incredible thing to see, so devastating,” said Sandrine Cassidy. “We are labeled the number one polluter of Santa Monica Bay.”

Cassidy first noticed the trash about 15 years ago when she moved to the neighborhood.

“I bought a house across the street from Ballona Creek and I was so shocked by all the plastic bags and pollution that was running down to the ocean” said Cassidy.

So she started doing clean-ups and 10 years ago she joined the nonprofit Ballona Creek Renaissance.

“Since 2014 we have diverted about 1.3 tons of trash per year with approximately 450 volunteers… and unfortunately, still a lot of trash,” Cassidy said.

That's still a lot of trash, even after 10 years of clean-ups. Because of that Cassidy was excited to hear of a new partnership that might cut down on the garbage in the area.

“This is the epitome of think globally and act locally,” said L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, just before signing an agreement with Dutch nonprofit, The Ocean Cleanup to put in place a machine called the Interceptor. The machine is capable of collecting more than 50 tons of trash a day.

“A project that will not only pull trash out of Ballona Creek before it's swept into Santa Monica Bay, but will also be part of a global project to stop the flow of plastics into the world’s oceans,” said Hahn. 

Already operating in Malaysia, the Interceptor, will be built with money from a private donor and according to the county, funding for the machine’s maintenance will come from the Department of Public Works. 

“Its innovative design uses the creek’s natural current to collect trash into a smart and solar powered trash receptacle, it will serve as a last line of defense preventing the vast majority of trash from flowing from Ballona into the bay,” said Hahn.

A last line of defense, because after 10 years of picking up trash Cassidy says, trash is the side-effect of a much bigger problem.

“We have now gotten involved in policy because it wasn’t enough to go out and clean up, that felt like a band-aid effect. There is just so much we can pick up with our hands," said Cassidy. "That system will capture trash, what we need to do is educate now, what we do here is clean-up but we really need to educate people to reduce their dependence on single use plastics, we have to get rid of waste.”

Her hope? That the Interceptor will put her clean-up operation out of business, so she can focus on policy and education.

The 24-month pilot project will allow the county and the Ocean Cleanup to test the technology and evaluate its efficacy.

Based on the results, the county will have the option of acquiring the system for free. Target date for deployment is fall of 2020.

In the meantime, Ballona Creek Renaissance is planning another trash clean-up in December.