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Over 20,000 beaches were closed or warnings posted in 2007 due to contamination from stormwater runoff. Previous solutions to the problem included UV, chlorine treatment, or elaborate systems in some new LEED-certified buildings and factories that recycle runoff or treat it with wetlands, green roofs or filters.

Now, a company called ABTech industries has patented a new, low-tech green approach that does more with less.

Smart Sponge is a white material, looking a bit like packing styrofoam, fits inside stormwater drains to trap debris, pollution and trash before it can flow into the ocean or into the water supply. The patented polymer is specially engineered to trap and encapsulate oil into an easily removed solid and has an antimicrobial agent bonded to its surface as well. The technology has been installed in 36 states, including on a muncipal basis in Norwalk, CT, Key West and most recently Miami, Florida. 

 The idea of a physical filter to replace complicated chemical and mechanical systems is appealing enough. But best of all, Smart Sponge can be made from recycled plastic material found in car dash boards, diapers and sneakers. That really is smart!