Solving the Plastic Ocean Pollution problem is so large an issue that it must be attacked from multiple directions. One approach is getting trash out of rivers and lakes before it can be carried through our waterways into our oceans. There are a number of projects underway that do just this; several tackle the problem on a smaller, individual level, while others take an industrial sized approach. All are needed.
A Computer Game for Cleaning Up the Chicago River
Urban Rivers’ mission, is to clean our rivers and protect our wildlife. The founders of Urban Rivers saw the problem; floating trash in the Chicago River. They started by scooping up trash with nets, but it soon became obvious that the problem needed a 24-7 device that would always be working, so they built a robot controlled remotely by a computer, that can be operated by anyone, anytime. A camera mounted on the robot allows the operator to see through the robot’s eyes and to drive it.
It turned out that using the Urban Rivers robot was a lot of fun, so they turned driving the robot into a computer game.
Log on and players can begin collecting points for trash, the more trash they collect the more points they can win. The robot collects the floating trash, removes it to a collection point and recharges itself automatically.
“This is just the beginning, this technology is capable of so much more, first its collecting trash, next its wildlife and fish monitoring. We believe that this device should be open sourced, we want to create a community around cleaning rivers. Become an early supporter and help us clean the Chicago River.”
“We hope that someday this game becomes so boring because there is no more trash to collect”
Now the Industrial Sized Versions
Let’s upscale that idea to industrial sized action. The city of Baltimore has come up with some very imaginative devices to remove plastic debris from its rivers and harbor. One system uses a combination of booms to corral floating plastic debris and then a “trash skimmer” that scoops up and carries the garbage to the shore where it can be removed for disposal.
The Water Wheel Collector
Even more futuristic is Baltimore’s solar and water powered, Water Wheel Collector that removes Styrofoam, discarded auto tires and floating plastic bottles. The ultimate goal is to put the water wheel out of business.
From Water Plants to Water Plastic
The technology for collecting plants that grow and float on water has been here for a while. Around the world from China to North America there are machines that harvest invasive aquatic weeds, like hyacinth that grows rapidly and impedes water traffic.
Most of these machines work in a very similar way, a motorized barge and conveyor belts scoop and carry the collected plants into a holding area for later removal. It’s a “no-brainer” to adapt this existing technology to collecting floating plastic debris.
The Seabin Project
“If you can have Rubbish Bins on Land Why Not in the Sea”
Back now to a more modest solution to cleaning up debris in smaller areas like harbors and marinas where larger skimmers are unable to operate. This device created by the Seabin Project collects trash one large bucket at a time. The bin is made of recycled plastic and operates on electric power but can be adapted to use solar energy. By using a finer filter it can even collect tiny microfilters.
The Seabin device was developed in Australia and Europe and is available in the US (check Amazon).
Seabin’s technology is simple and can be upscaled for adaptations in open waters and Seabin says that they have never had a fish collected in their bins.
Here’s a Great Overview of the Plastic Problem and the Solutions
This guy, Hank really talks fast, but he’s very good and gives you a concise overview of the entire plastic pollution problem and then describes what you can do.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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