“Litter Gitter” on Birmingham’s Valley Creek captures over 148 pounds of trash

Litter Gitter on Valley Creek in Birmingham on December 5, 2019. Photo courtesy of Freshwater Land Trust

I don’t know about you, but nothing upsets me more than seeing trash in a creek. 

Well, that’s all about to change thanks to a dynamic public-private partnership led by the Freshwater Land Trust.

Litter Gitter

Litter Gitter on Valley Creek in Birmingham, December 5, 2019. Photo courtesy of Fresh Water Land Trust

According to the group, in December 2019, a business called the Osprey Initiative installed a Litter Gitter device at the headwaters of Valley Creek in downtown Birmingham as a pilot project. 

In a nutshell, a Litter Gitter is an adjustable device that intercepts floating litter from stormwater runoff. 

The Freshwater Land Trust reported the following results from December to February:

December 5-31, 2019: A total of 37.98 pounds / 49.5 cubic feet of litter was removed, of which 17.94 pounds / 20.5 cubic feet was recycled.

January 2020: 41.82 pounds / 48 cubic feet of litter was removed, of which 16.14 pounds / 19.5 cubic feet was recycled.

February 2020: 67.97 pounds / 79.5 cubic feet litter was removed, of which 26.11 pounds / 34 cubic feet was recycled.

Grand total? 

  • 148 pounds of trash/177 cubic feet of litter
  • 60 pounds recyclables/74 cubic feet of recyclables

During the pilot project phase, Freshwater Land Trust presented the Litter Gitter concept to city councils and representatives from Bessemer, Birmingham, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Hoover, Irondale, Vestavia Hills, and Trussville and to a variety of organizations and individuals. The group anticipates several cities installing new devices in their communities later in the year.

Why is this Important?

Even though one of our state slogans is “Alabama the Beautiful,” we unfortunately have a problem with litterbugs. And that is costly.

Need an example?  The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) spent in 2018 $6.8 million dollars just to remove litter from the state’s roadsides. ALDOT’s litter cleanup expense is more than 10 times the amount of funds the state legislature appropriates to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management ($560,000 in FY2018), the agency in charge of protecting the state’s land, air and water.

Public/Private Partnership

One other bonus about the Litter Gitter project?  It is a successful public/private partnership. More than 20+ organizations, businesses and local governments are pulling this project together.

“We have been blown away by the support,” said Sally LaRue, Outreach Coordinator at Freshwater Land Trust. “Litter Gitters benefit every single person in our community, and we’re excited to add more devices soon.”

Below are the partners.

Alabama Rivers Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Cahaba Riverkeeper, City of Bessemer, City of Birmingham, City of Birmingham Stormwater, City of Homewood, City of Mountain Brook, City of Vestavia Hills, Coosa Riverkeeper, Creative Concepts, Drummond Company, Inc., Eagle Solar & Light, Freshwater Land Trust, Friends of Shades Creek, Jefferson County Commission, Jefferson County Department of Health, Maestro Maintenance,Orchestra Partners, River Network, UAB’s Department of Sustainability, Village Creek SocietyWe expect great things from the Litter Gitter project. 

For more information about it, contact the Freshwater Land Trust at 205-417-2777 or visit  freshwaterlandtrust.org/litter-gitters/

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.