Tampa, FL, Getting To The Source Of Litter With The “Litter Skimmer”

The city of Tampa, Florida has announced this year’s Urban Excellence Awards – which celebrate businesses, organizations, individuals, events and projects that have made significant contributions toward creating a unique, vibrant and diverse downtown environment.

The winner of the Public Sector Project Award was  the “Litter Skimmer” trash boat, which is part of the initiative called “Keep it Clean, Tampa.” LIttle Skimmer – which the city’s Solid Waste Department operates eight hours a day, four days per week in local waterways – works as a conveyor system with two wings that collect garbage and debris on and up to 3 feet beneath the surface of the water. It is also equipped with a water cannon that the crew can aim at trash that is up against the seawall in order to push it back into the path of the Litter Skimmer. The boat has collected more than 23,000 pounds (~10,432 kilos) of floating debris since its inception in the summer of 2022. 

“The top contributor to marine debris is single-use, or disposable, plastic products, including container caps and lids, beverage bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, cups, plates, cutlery, and drinking straws,” as stated on the city’s website. “Single-use plastic utensils and containers threaten marine environments because they do not fully break down or decompose.”

At the time of its launch last year, the city received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for $500,000 to study where the trash is coming from. 

“This grant is an important part of stopping this trash [from] getting in the waterway in the first place,” said Whit Remer, the sustainability and resilience officer for the city of Tampa.