Meet the drain sock — a simple pollution solution taking the world by storm

From ABC

(Don’t think this is scalable to large municipalities myself~ctm)

By Gian De Poloni

Updated Sat at 9:20pm

Video: A drain sock stopping litter from polluting local waterways (ABC News)

Cities across the globe are looking to Australia for a simple pollution solution to stop rubbish from spoiling creeks and river systems.

Key points:

  • The City of Kwinana drain sock idea went viral internationally on Facebook
  • Close by, the City of Cockburn has managed to turn rubbish into road base
  • The ideas have attracted attention from as far as Europe and South America

The City of Kwinana, south of Perth, has generated international interest for its drain socks.

In March 2018, nets were fitted to the mouths of two local stormwater drains to trap litter and debris that washed into the system after a rain storm.

Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said more than 25 million people had since interacted with a single picture of the drain sock in action that the council posted on social media.

“We’re still getting up to five telephone enquiries or email enquiries globally a week from Austin, Texas to the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Zambia and New Zealand,” she said.

“We’ve had calls from Chile, Brazil, Portugal, many European countries — I’ve even been on a Canadian weather station interview.

“Here we are, a city of 42,000 residents who had this really great idea that wasn’t very costly, and we’ve had this amazing response to it.”

A can and bottle amongst piles of leaves and debris Photo: The drain sock captures litter and excess debris. (ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Ms Adams said the drain socks meant the city now spent less money manually clearing rubbish out of its creek system.

“I think some of the best ideas come from just the easiest and most simple concepts,” she said.

“I think it was the fact that you have a drain and you put a rope net over it and you can physically see the rubbish, the leaves and the debris that was coming out of that drain.

“People connected and thought, ‘I wonder whether that could be used in our city or town’ to fix up some of the issues that they have in their own native reserves.”

Full story with video here.

HT/Earthling2

97 thoughts on “Meet the drain sock — a simple pollution solution taking the world by storm

  1. Where it is optimal to set this ‘sock’ up on a municipal drain of some type where it will work, it is a very simple low tech solution. Better than letting all this trash make its way into a water course. I am always appalled when I am in third world country and people/kids just throw all their garbage into the local storm drain, and then wonder why their beach or river is completely clogged with trash. Which makes it way downstream and presumably into the ocean, although I think a lot of garbage is still deliberately dumped at sea which is another problem altogether.

    I am all for picking up after ourselves and hope this will help not having to enact all these single use plastic bans because we don’t aim to provide a solution of some type to a known problem. Burning/incinerating it in a waste to energy plant probably makes the most sense, since recycling can be very expensive, as we find our recycled goods being shipped to the Philippines or Malaysia and then they get mad at us westerners sending them our trash and then they landfill it or dump it in the ocean. If we clean up pollution and garbage, I believe this will change the mindset of the entire CO2 debate, because most people are equating pollution and garbage with man made activity all being bad and hence why the war on carbon.

    • Hence also why the misguided war on plastic straws. It’s likely the lazy green millennials dropping them.

      • And they’ll need bigger “socks”. The Gen-Z’ers are following along. One wonders if a campaign of recycling would work on them as in returning a specified percent of debris to each Millennial so they can make their “contribution” during the next storm. Might work for politicians as well. Just sayin’.

      • Doesn’t look like that drain sock will be all that good at stopping straws. Its far too open a netting.
        It also appears as though most of the detritus collected by the sieve was organic plant matter. Surely that cannot be considered a pollutant.
        How often ae these ‘serviced’, just after each rain? How about prolonged periods of rain? Do they plan on removing these devices during active drain use and replace them while the drains are pouring?

        • They’re serviced and sorted. The organics are mulched and used by the Council in local parks. They aren’t total answer, but they do reduce rubbish in waterways.

      • I was actually thinking the same thing. I’ve been trying to think of the last time – if ever – dropped a piece of trash anywhere other than in a trash receptacle.

        It’s a real easy thing to do – of course, I had parents that taught me that sort of thing.

        • You must be a rarity. I see a lot of trash dumped AROUND trash receptacles but not in them. Gawd some people are so lazy!

        • Mt father was adamant on that score from when I was a young child. I also remember him saying that Mexican towns and cities were trash strewn dumps because everyone just dropped their waste into the street. He was born in Guadalajara, but came to the US when he was only several years old. I think that he wanted to impress on all of us children that in the US people do not toss garbage into the streets, or at least not back then in the 1950s/60s. Anymore California has appeared to have forgotten the lessons from past history such as the danger of having human waste and garbage strewn around in major cities which could potentially lead to outbreaks of serious diseases.

    • 1. The eco-warriors don’t like incineration — allegedly because of all the nasty “kemikles” it “pumps into the atmosphere” but in reality because that would allow us to continue to have the quality of life which they feel uncomfortable with (even though precious few of them plan to give it up themselves).

      2. They equally hate landfill because these same “kemikles” might leach into ‘the environment’ causing who knows what unpleasantnesses. The fact that landfill is a way of recycling one of the earth’s genuinely limited commodities, ie land, never seems to occur to them.

      One “problem” with third-world pollution is that like the West 100+ years ago they are too busy trying to exist to worry over much about what happens to their detritus after they have finished with it. Environmentalism is a (relatively) rich man’s luxury!

      The other major problem is that we don’t really care about the “third world”. We are content to ship our unwanted refuse to them to dispose of (or not) while at the same time acting in ways which ensure the non-European, non-North American poor remain poor. By, for example, refusing to facilitate (or even permit) the two basic things which give us the lifestyle that has made us healthier, wealthier, and longer lived than any generation before us, namely clean drinking water and reliable, affordable energy. From those two everything else follows.

      We — eco-activists to the fore — ought to be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves!

      • Plasma garbage incinerators are known and work great for all sorts of stuff including low level radioactive waste from hospitals. It generates enough power to run itself.

      • Waste incineration is a cost effective answer to industrial waste disposal especially mother liquids and self sustaining organic substances. Scrubbers are effective in minimizing flue gas contaminants.
        One would think that waste incineration of plastics and packaging would be a no-brainer to land fills but over time these projects never seem to work because of plant siting, collection issues and political cronyism.
        American Company WASTE MANAGEMENT is a very effective solution in almost all facets of pollution control. Wish I held the stock when I owned it at $50 it has double ($114 ) since then.

    • Don’t you have to send workers to every single drain to clean them out every single time it rains?

    • When I was a kid (eons ago), in the spring papers, wrappers, etc. blew down city streets, highway ditches were littered… Third World countries are at that stage and maybe in an9ther generation they’ll be more prosperous and will pick up after themselves.

    • Where it is optimal to set this ‘sock’ up on a municipal drain of some type where it will work, it is a very simple low tech solution. Better than letting all this trash make its way into a water course

      That will work just “Jim Dandy” like … until you have a major rainstorm of 1” to 2+” per hour, …. then the “sock(s)” plug up, ….. the storm drains “backup” ….. and parts of the municipality is declared to be “flooded”.

      And residents get irate when their streets and basements get flooded.

      • They are designed for the flow in the pipe. And if push comes to shove, they’ll release from the wall. We’ve been using them and other types for more than 15 years in QLD. They’re ugly things to see, but they work well.

      • Hi Samuel,

        We don’t get rain like that here in Perth. We have just had three days of what we consider “heavy” rain and have had maybe 3 inches if we are lucky in your measurements (we are a technologically advanced country and us the metric system).

        I’m no Greenie but hate litter and litterers and think this is a great idea.

        I’m sure some young graduate engineering student could refine the design to cope with high rates of water flow.

      • Greg Cavanagh – June 11, 2019 at 2:37 pm

        They are designed for the flow in the pipe. And if push comes to shove, they’ll release from the wall.

        Thanks for the explanation, Greg C. The only thing I can add is, ….. if not, ….. then a “draw cord”, …….. like the “pull cords” on plastic garbage bags, ……… should be added to the mouth of the “sock” so that iffen it unexpectedly “detaches” from the wall then the mouth of the “sock” would be closed to prevent the collected particulate from escaping before it is recovered.

        And Rich (June 11, 2019 at 7:31 pm), ……. you are correct, ….. 7.6 cm of rain over 3 days would not cause any per se, “flash flooding”, thus no overload of storm drains.

    • Totally agree that we can do so much in the pollution department that falls under “cleaning your own back yard” and is actually something we can do with significant results. It could detract from CO2 and give the Greenie base the purpose in life they’re looking for. The largest rivers in this world are appalling. Tackling pollution is something we should do.

      The problem is that AGW has already become a huge industry and is really the epitome of corporate cronyism. Pushing back against those forces will now be a daunting task. We have let it get too far and the media, including social, is overwhelming. The hope that exists is that big industries do fall. Also, we have never quite been here before; it’ll be interesting to see if and how the media monster can be brought under control.

  2. What on earth are these items doing in the watercourses anyway?
    If the s**be who drop rubbish would only take it home with them there would be no problem.
    The micro-plastics that get into water via the washing machine are a different matter.
    Has Kip Hansen got any further with the investigation he said he was doing in a previous blog?

  3. This should scale, you’ll just need to use it in many points, rather than a single catchment.

  4. I find it hard to believe that this is a new idea, either here in Oz or the countries asking questions of this council.

    Litter traps of various design are already incorporated on storm drain systems

    • It isn’t new. Many poorer countries collect this waste manually and re-process it into useful products like roof tiles and pavement slabs. Proven, works and is easy to deploy.

      This is Australia and Australia needs to be seen to be reducing this sort of pollution. Who will collect it, how much will it cost, or simply educate to not litter. It’s not difficult!

      • Isn’t it an admission that Australians are basically filthy people who can’t figure out what trash can is for?????

        • Only the tourists from abroad Sheri. The locals are scrupulously clean and pleasantly free of disease.

        • Unfortunately, you are correct.

          Further confirming evidence is provided by:

          The state of K-Mart and Big W stores at closing time;

          Any area where a climate change protest was held.

        • I think too many people are lazy. Can’t even take their rubbish away from remote areas and dispose of it properly.

    • It’s basically like tying a used pantyhose leg over the end of your washer’s discharge hose to catch the lint and keep it from plugging the drain pipe. Simple but effective.

    • As with many ‘solutions’, its efficacy will be dependent on how well it is maintained. If the local authorities start cutting corners and don’t empty the traps frequently enough, they’ll just become another blockage point in the drainage system leading to flooding and the litter finding a different route to the sea.

      • Your spot on. Once the grow-government group realizes we need more public employees and hence more tax funding for the employee and unions, this will take off like a wild fire.

        And that is all because some folks just figure their trash is someone else’s responsibility.

  5. Let’s face it, so-called “plastic pollution” is actually just a litter problem & is generally a problem created by poor municipal services in the developing world. As others have commented, trash often ends up in waterways and ultimately the ocean, after heavy rains.

    Using simple low-tech solutions like this are a much more sensible proposition than banning plastics, the sought-after knee jerk reaction by western politicians in response to pressure from MSM & the anti-fossil fuel activists.

      • Los Angeles and all CA cities have plaques on every street drain telling us that everything ends up in the ocean. Yet people blithely ignore the public notice and toss litter into the streets. Yes, LA and most coastal CA cities are (D) controlled fortresses.

    • I agree on it being a litter problem, but I disagree on it being created by poor municipal services. The cause of the problem is folks who actively litter.

      I live in an exurb of Dallas. There are several seasonal creeks that flow nearby (one is behind my house). For some odd reason unknown to me, folks seem compelled to throw trash (fast food bags, plastic bottles, beer cans, etc.) into these creek beds. Of course, the discarded trash eventually winds up in the Trinity River basin.

      I once picked up a full 30 gallon garbage bag full of trash in a nearby creek area of less than 500 sf. People are animals. It disgusts me.

      • They throw it there because the junk goes down (& to some extent out of sight). The same is done near me.

  6. Yep, not new. Ok for moderate flows, but if you are in a place where there can be massive rainstorms, eg hundreds of millimetres in a few hours, then socks won’t work. You need a centrifugal or cetripetal arrangement so the junk is thrown inwards or outwards into catch pits. Litter is a problem, but if the storm is really bad, then its the contents of houses, sheds, etc

  7. I’ve seen trash cachement systems that used easy to clear slots prior to a dead-end and basket-top overflows that are designed to catch the garbage both in the holding pond AND in the grill on top the overflow stack.

    The sock is a fairly effective system for keeping large more solid waste from exiting the system but has a tendency to pulverize smaller materials. From what I’ve seen the most effective system is correct water management design.

    The sock IS a very good design for small-scale control of runoff debris onto private land. The main downside is it is plastic and is constantly strained and twisted when in use and when exposed to sunlight it too decays into microparticles.

  8. lmao this is not new 😀

    When growing up in Dublin in the late 70s, they had grills in tubes to catch the garbage in some of the streams.
    It just wasn’t sock-like, more tube-like. Most likely something the local council came up with back then.

    I wonder how the likkle fishies are meant to traverse the nice trap at the end of the tube. 😐

  9. Putting gratings on drains and ditch waterways is standard practice, and has been so for many years.

    Of course, once set up they need regular clearing and maintainence. I hope this is available in third world countries…

    • True, if you do not keep those drains clear you defeat the purpose and may end up with water going where it shouldn’t.

    • Yes, if the water cannot quickly drain, the storm drain is basically useless. Of course, enviros don’t care about that…

  10. Right — it’ll work until the sock fills up.

    Will these third-world locations, which can’t currently control their garbage, implement a whole regimen of sock cleaning ?

    I don’t think so.

  11. Won’t work on large drains but should be practical for smaller feeder drains…but only an interim measure.

    I can remember sitting in a riverside restaurant in Eastern Europe counting the number of plastic bottles per minute that went past. And seeing a small stream after flooding that had curtains of plastic bags hanging from branches of trees along the bank.

    So stopping the stuff getting into the drains [and eventually rivers and oceans]in the first place is a better idea…starts with parents and schools but has to include the whole community. Proud of your country ? Don’t fill it with s**t.

  12. Given that the vast majority of, say, plastic pollution in the world’s oceans comes from Asia and the subcontinent, you’d have to knit a sock big enough to cover the mouths of the Ganges, the Yellow River, etc. Socks visible from space. There’s a concept.

  13. Compacting non-recyclable non-toxic rubbish into road base appears an excellent idea.

  14. Catch it all, burn it for electricity and send the rest to the smelter. Recover the metal and cast the residue into piers and breakwater stones. Burying garbage is a waste of energy.

    Germany burns a great deal of their plastic trash along with paper and compostables. Why not? Letting it slowly rot to methane, trying to capture it and piping it into the gas supply is different? Not really.

    Remember when we recycled newspapers at so much a pound? That was efficient. How much “paper” is actually recycled? Tim Horton”s paper coffee cups can’t be. There is an element of crossed fingers behind these recycling promises.

    The sock on a pipe is a great idea for places populated by people that treat the environment like a dustbin. 90% of the plastic in the oceans comes from only 10 major rivers. They need bigger versions.

  15. This is hardly a new idea, it is used in various places either as nets or as grilles. its great in specific locations when it can be monitored and the litter removed before it breaks the net and gets flushed en masse down the watercourse,. also large branches tend to pierce it.

    As others have mentioned, how on earth has all this stuff got into the watercourse in the first place and how can it be prevented?

  16. The problem with plastic products is not with the product it is with the people who throw it away, and I am afraid that in my experience (through simple observation) a lot of the culprits are the young.
    I used to sit in my car waiting to pick the kids up after school and had plenty of time to observe what the other kids did with cans and wrappers. It was as if these things suddenly failed to exist once their usefulness was over. The kids didn’t actually throw them away, they just fell out of their hands onto the ground.
    And I guess a high proportion of kids these days will be joining Greta in their school strikes.

    • It takes a cultural shift to change this behavior. The concept of ‘stewartship’ and ‘respect’ must be attached to a moral basis for people to establish a belief system that supports a clean enviroment.

      The US had a 20 year ‘Don’t litter” campaign that incluided the teaching of this in elementary school.

      • I pick up trash in my local area. I crush all the plastic and aluminum bottles/cans to reduce bulk. In a 1/2 mile stretch of city road, I picked up 25 thirty gallon bags full of trash in a 6 month period. Many times I picked up all the trash only to see more trash the following day (fast food bags, plastic water bottles, beer cans/bottles, etc.). It is very discouraging and really tests my faith in mankind.

        • Well done weyland. I pick up trash every day but not in the epic quantities you do.

          Whilst we need to penalise the offenders at source if every one picked up a couple of items every time they went out it would greatly improve the environment.

          I would like to know though what goes through people’s heads when they casually throw a plastic bottle or the remains of a fast food meal onto the pavement or into the gutter

    • I think people are looking at the bigger picture of so called global climate change and fail to realise the impact their habits have on their local community. It tends to be the young throwing on the floor sweet papers and plastic bottles and coffee cups and crisp packets.

      It’s a bad habit that will presumably follow them through life .

      Tonyb

  17. This is not only not a new idea, but it is an idea that is not necessarily desirable.

    “Trash racks” have been incorporated into storm sewer systems in various parts of the world for over a century, in places that need them. They don’t gather the small litter, but then, anything that does gather the small litter is almost certainly going to clog up at the worst possible time – during a major storm event.

    Putting a “drain sock” over the outlet or inlet of a storm drain might seem a good idea, until it clogs partially or completely enough to back up flow, and then everything upstream then floods during a storm causing millions or tens of millions in flood damage to homes, businesses, etc. Then those who are screwed over will be looking for someone to sue for their troubles, or voting the SOBs out of office who came up with the idea.

  18. physically see the rubbish, the leaves and the debris that was coming out of that drain

    If it’s catching leaves, they are going to have to clean that thing weekly, if not daily. Especially during the fall.

  19. The real problem is POVERTY — both personal and governmental. Proper handling of municipal waste is expensive — proper landfills are an advanced engineering problem and expensive to do right. Storm drainage systems are only found in advanced nations — poor countries use existing rivers, streams, gulleys or build open ditches to carry away storm water.

    I have seen an entire neighborhood — household garbage and the houses that produced it — washed into the Ozama River in the Dominican Republic (and subsequently out to sea)– and not just once, but several times over a ten year period. things are not that much different in the more affluent Us Virgin Islands albeit that there is much more concern for human life there.

    Netting storm drain intakes results in flooding as the intake gets clogged — examples are too common to mention. It would be possible to create the equivalent of a settling pond but eliminating floating material instead of sinking material — this is just another huge engineering problem — that means MONEY MONEY MONEY.

    Giving credit where credit is due, the government of the Dominican Republic stages huge shoreline cleanups regularly, dispatching hundreds of employees to gather trash from the its shores and sending all that floating trash to landfills.

    In the US, you see signs for the “Adopt-a-Highway Program“, where local business or citizen groups volunteer to pick up trash along the highways and place it all in sturdy bags for pick up and disposal by the highway department. This helps to keep trash out of the local waterways. Basically it means someone else will be responsible for the trash people throw out of their cars or that blows out of the back of their trucks.

    • I agree on it being a litter problem, but I disagree on it being created by poor municipal services. The cause of the problem is folks who actively litter.

      I live in an exurb of Dallas. There are several seasonal creeks that flow nearby (one is behind my house). For some odd reason unknown to me, folks seem compelled to throw trash (fast food bags, plastic bottles, beer cans, etc.) into these creek beds. Of course, the discarded trash eventually winds up in the Trinity River basin.

      I once picked up a full 30 gallon garbage bag full of trash in a nearby creek area of less than 500 sf. People are animals. It disgusts me.

      • Lemme guess – south Dallas county?

        I don’t see that much debris in the creeks up here in Collin county … although I saw a big blue thing stuck in a tree in the creek while out bike riding today …

        • Actually in far north Ellis County in the city of Red Oak, but it is the same everywhere I go in semi-rural/rural areas. The small cities and counties are not equipped to clean out the creek litter from irresponsible people.

          Folks seem to think that their trash magically disappears if thrown into a creek. In the creek behind my house, someone threw in a used car battery. I am waiting for the creek to dry up and I will pull it out.

  20. Kip Hansen June 11, 2019 at 6:55 am
    The real problem is POVERTY — both personal and governmental.
    ————-
    agreed.
    but there is also a problem with those of us who do not like centralised government and taxes. In the UK my local house council tax (recycling, garbage collection, social services, etc) is £2500 and water/sewage is £250 pa, and councils are finding services difficult to finance on this. How would a poor nation would afford these services?

  21. What these developing countries need is more prosperity so that care of the environment becomes a higher priority.

  22. Looking at the video almost everything collected is plant material. This may work in some isolated urban situations but looks like a waste of money and manpower in any suburban area.

  23. I have been installing these for 20 years; in the UK they are know as COPA SACS and are also used a cheap way to screen ‘rag’ from sewer overflows (in the UK many systems are combined wastewater and stormwater). This is not a new idea or news for that matter, its just the result of a poorly informed media who have done no fact checking!

  24. Last night, as the cricket was rained out, by default I grazed upon yet another hour of Attenborough and his nature documentaries like Blue Planet. When I first started watching these doccos more than a decade ago it was for the very high quality of the photography. But a wicked new factor had emerged. All of us have been bombarded with claims that human rubbish was accumulating in these beautiful natural places. Earth was faced with a major new challenge.
    My wicked new twist was to study these Attenborough images for visual evidence of this horrible pollution. You know what? After a year of casual study, I have seen not one example of this alleged horror.
    Of course, the producers of the documentaries might censor it, the photographers might purposely avoid it, or my casual viewing might easily miss it. Still ….
    How about a prize for the first sighting of a drain sock in an Attenborough Docco?

  25. Simple idea but what happens when the “sock” gets plugged, which it will? The sock can not distinquish between garbage and natural items such as leaves or small twigs which should be allowed through. Next we will have “sock” monitors who go around “knocking the socks off” at the end of each storm.

  26. Sure this is new?

    I worked in civil ‘back in the day’ and did a reasonable amount of storm water management. Wasn’t my preferred industry and I moved out of civil as soon as the career opportunities came up, but I do vaguely remember putting large catchment funnels at various points to collect waste material.

    The other thing I remember from my time is that councils do not employ design teams. They have engineers at a project management type level but the actual leg work is contracted out to private industry. I honestly doubt the council in question had anything to do with this ‘idea’ apart from paying for it.

    I think this is less an epoch defining moment in storm water management and more a case of the ABC reporters actually stepping away from their latte and yoga classes for long enough to discover – briefly – that there is an entire world out there they have never noticed.

    Personally I put this down as a lazy ABC fluff piece bordering on fake news.

    • Settle – it’s a long way from East Perth to Kwinana. Respect to the ABC Journo for putting it on the line there – Kwinana is rough.

  27. I have always wondered where my missing socks ran off to. Now I know they had big goals in life.

  28. This isn’t a new idea, I have seen exactly the same thing on storm drain outlets along the ocean cliffs south of Bondi Beach in Sydney.
    Yes, they do work and work in large cities such as Sydney.

  29. Drain socks will clog storm drains shut and cause local flooding.

    Better to have something like a chicken wire hemisphere over the drain. Allows water in, but directs detritus around and away.

  30. Oh yeah. Good old Aussie ingenuity. The thing is, this “problem” was solved in other countries generations ago. In Australia, storm water is drained away by large gaping holes in the curb so large, soft drink bottles can fall through. In Europe, where I grew up, grates in the surface of the road next to the curb are used instead. That in itself solves most of the “rubbish in the rivers and creeks” problem already. On top of that, perforated drum is suspended under the grate, to catch the smaller debrie, which may still fall throug. This drum was regularly lifted and emptied by cleaning crew. Simple. No magic socks required… Only if Aussies could stop for ever re-inventing the wheel and learn from others. Sadly, most Aussies believe, they live in a Clever Country.

  31. This is very old technology. My company (ACF Environmental) has been producing these and other like items since the mid 80’s (& we sell to municipalities regularly). The above style of drain covers are already spec’d into most construction plans. Many different options are available in the industry to address flow rates (some even have emergency overflows to avoid ponding). There are even permanent or temporary options for “in” drain applications. Just so we are all aware… Dealing with the removal of sediments, hydrocarbons, & trash in the water ways is big business. We even have a division that deals with storing the excess storm-water so that the existing water system can cope with it.

  32. Well, in fact, I’ve seen these in use on beaches for at least 20 years now. Perhaps the story serves other purposes, too.

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