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Toyota Stores around the country are kept clean and tidy, but it took a trial of an innovative stormwater filter trap to discover that small pieces of plastic and coarse sediment were still making their way to the sea via the stormwater system.
The installation and trial of the Enviropod LittaTrap supports Toyota New Zealand’s goal of no air, land or water pollution by 2030.
In 2021, TNZ installed 12 trial LittaTrap stormwater catch basin inserts at seven dealerships in the upper North Island. Stormwater drains were chosen near high-activity areas such as car parks, service areas and smoking zones. The basin filter basket is easily installed in the mouth of a drain and is specially designed to capture up to 99% of items smaller than 5 square millimetres and 40% of suspended solids in water.
After 100 days the catch basins were opened and their contents analysed. A total of 1,486 pieces of litter, excluding leaves and sticks, was found in the filter basket. Of that total, 1,169 pieces were plastic, including cigarette butts, soft plastics and small pieces of rubber.
Without the intervention of the filter, all of these items would have flowed out to sea, where the soft plastics would have broken down eventually into microplastics and chemicals that can be ingested by marine life. This can prove extremely painful and even fatal for wildlife, as hard plastic gets stuck in their digestive tracts and soft plastics degrade into harmful particles and are absorbed in body tissues. The subsequent transfer of such microplastics into the human food chain has been widely reported.
A secondary benefit of installing the traps was a change in behaviour among Store employees. At one Store, having noticed the installation near a smoking zone and learned about its purpose, employees changed their behaviour. As a result, that site recorded the lowest amount of litter caught in the 12 trial traps. Since the trial, LittaTrap basins have also been installed at TNZ’s headquarters in Palmerston North and rolled out to more Stores.