I was raised in the swamps of Louisiana and grew up wanting to protect the environment

February 26, 2019

“I grew up in the swamps of Hammond, Louisiana. I am an environmental geologist by training and recycle for fun. My grandfather died before I was born. He was an outlaw and became a federal game warden. I saw a taped interview of him where he said he saw how the environment changed during his lifetime because it wasn’t being protected. I was raised wanting to protect the environment.

I started making “Litter Getters” two years ago to intercept trash from stormwater runoff. Anything on roads and parking lots flows into our native water. We developed a system that catches litter and tested it on One Mile Creek that runs into Three Mile Creek. The “Litter Getter’ is a floating basket — a wire cage with PVC exoskeleton and pool noodle booms.  We have a few grants and 11 “Litter Getters” out, with three more coming. One of our sites collected 375 pounds of trash from one rain event. We clean them out twice a month, or more often after rain events. I have nine part-time employees and my son leads the crew. We work with a group called Team River Runners that helps heal veterans with physical and mental injuries. One veteran is a Paralympian and you will not outwork him.

We are meeting with Coca-Cola about putting a few “Litter Getters” in Atlanta. It has to be a viable business, but it is hard blending environmental activism with profit. We break the costs of the material down, give a profile of the source, and help the city go after those. The City of Mobile has been very supportive.

The name of my company with the “Litter Getters” is Osprey Initiative. The chemical DDT almost knocked out the osprey. It weakened the shells, and when the osprey sat on their eggs the shell would break. When I was a kid, seeing an osprey was a big deal. After DDT was banned, the osprey came back. They are a symbol of environmental resurgence, and proof that we can make a change. People say it can’t be done, but we are doing it. It is a collaborative effort between municipalities, businesses, and foundations. An ADD coonass from Louisiana can do anything he puts his mind to.”

Recycling has gotten harder because the tolerances are lower of what materials recovery facilities are accepting because. The recycling market has dropped. China used to take everything. They would recycle about 30 percent and leave the rest on the ground, but the environmental movement has started there and they quit taking plastic. Recycling has to be clean, without other materials like styrofoam, or it can’t move it to the next level. The market is so low, if you are adding labor to it to clean it up, you are destroying the opportunity to recycle and it goes to a landfill. The recovery facility cleans and bales recycled materials into what the market is looking for.  A lot of our materials end up in larger centers in Atlanta. There isn’t much of a market right now for anything but aluminum. Sometimes there is no buyer and the MRFs have to throw recycling away. Cardboard is $90 a ton. Aluminum is about $800 a ton   Paper is $5 a ton, but it was $90 a ton four years ago.
We have a disposable culture. Everything can be thrown away, even televisions.  We need to reduce, reuse recycle and protect the land. Greenspaces are the only legacy we have to leave in this world. It is not replaceable. Once you build on it, it is never coming back.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Anne Ball

    Thanks for your great work!


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