Trash Skimmers

Going Beyond Narragansett Bay!

Clean Ocean Access has stopped over 30,000 pounds of trash from leaving Narragansett Bay. It all started back in 2016 when Clean Ocean Access placed their first two Marina Trash Skimmers in the northeast corner of Newport harbor. Similar in look to a dumpster (but barely noticeable on land) the large contraptions are celebrated for their efficient removal of trash and ability to improve water quality. Better yet, they offer an educational opportunity for tourist and locals alike, with simple signage at the ferry dock, skimmer education tours throughout the summer, and visits from Newport Yacht Club and the local Boys and Girls Club summer camp.

Students from the Boys and Girls Club sort through the trash found in the skimmer – hands-on learning about marine debris! Photo credit: Clean Ocean Access

A trash skimmer runs 12-24 hours per day, up to 7 days per week. When the skimmers are full of debris they are emptied into large barrels, typically four times per week, but it can be needed as often as twice a day after a rainstorm. If they break, they’ve proven to be reasonably easy to fix, and can typically be back in the water sipping trash within a few days. Being in New England, they do need to be pulled out for the winter, as they can’t be maintained once the ice hits the dock.

Students note what type of trash was found, which helps analyze local plastic pollution issues. Photo credit: Clean Ocean Access

Steady Growth

With the success of the two downtown skimmers, and the knowledge from their beach cleanups that there was still plenty more trash to capture, Clean Ocean Access started to expand their horizons. Next, they moved to the opposite side of the harbor, installing one at Fort Adams State Park in partnership with Sail Newport and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), which also offered an educational opportunity for the sailing community. While the unit received worldwide attention during the Volvo Ocean Race, they are now looking for a new home for the unit that will serve a greater environmental purpose.

Boatyards have proven to be another excellent place for trash skimmers – and the fourth trash skimmer in Narragansett Bay at New England Boatworks is no different. Beyond collecting trash, the skimmers filter oil out of the water and with hundreds of boats being worked on in the vicinity, this is an excellent way for the boating community to mitigate their impact!

Signage at Fort Adams explains the impact of the Trash Skimmer. Photo credit Jesus Renedo/ Volvo Ocean Race

Expanding Horizons

With a successful quartet of trash skimmers, Clean Ocean Access has set its sites on expanding throughout Southeast New England. Expansion has come in the form of both educational opportunities including demonstrating the technology at the 6th International Marine Debris Conference and working with marinas and cities outside of Rhode Island.

During the Ocean Summit at the Volvo Ocean Race, the RI DEM, in partnership with the RI Marine Trades Association, announced a sustainability initiative to help reduce and prevent single-use plastics from entering RI waters. The plan encourages local marinas to take responsibility for their waterfront by participating in a series of plastic reducing activities. After successfully completing 7 out of 10 activities, a marina can be awarded recognition as a  “Zero Plastics Marina.” Of the ten potential activities, one is implementing a Marina Trash Skimmer in an area of the marina with known debris and oil buildup. Through this statewide initiative, the Marina Trash Skimmer is recognized as a useful technology for eliminating single-use plastic from entering local waterways as well as a tool for promoting sustainable business practices, click here to learn more about the Zero Plastics Marina Initiative.

This year, with a grant from 11th Hour Racing, Clean Ocean Access is planning to put Marina Trash Skimmers in Groton, CT, Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA. All of the skimmers will be located in highly visible and accessible sites to promote engagement of students through educational programming, along with educational signage for those walking by.

Stay tuned for launch dates and celebrations!

Marina Trash Skimmers are a great addition to almost any harbor or marina. Clean Ocean Access has become experts on this topic and is available to help with questions. If you’re interested in installing a marina trash skimmer contact:

Header image: Dave McLaughlin the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Clean Ocean Access, leads a tour educating visitors and locals about the benefits of having a marina trash skimmer installed in the harbor. Photo credit: Clean Ocean Access