The WasteShark is an autonomous marine drone and is the first designed specifically to eat waste. Its shape is inspired by the whale shark and it can remove 1kg (2.3lb) of waste per minute and last for eight hours at a time.
The device is making its UK debut in Ilfracombe harbour, in Devon, on Monday, after operating successfully in five countries, including South Africa and United Arab Emirates.
It runs on a by a rechargeable battery and will capture up to 160 litres of waste at a time, including plastics and microplastics.
It can also extract oils and pest plants such as algae and duckweed.
The plastic waste will be turned into pellets that will be used to make products such as kayaks.
Created by RanMarine Technology, the WasteShark is designed to be harmonious with the environment and it causes no harm to wildlife. GPS points are programmed into the drone to ensure that it covers hot-spots where waste gathers. It can also collect important data about the marine environment.
WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue are launching the WasteShark as part of their work to improve Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These areas include precious habitats and the species within them, and are under serious threat from issues including plastic and pollution.
Ilfracombe harbour lies within the Bideford to Foreland Point MPA, home to a number of important species and diverse habitats, including rocky reefs, honeycomb worms, pink sea fans and the charismatic spiny lobster. The area is also regularly visited by seabirds and cetaceans including the elusive harbour porpoise.
Lundy Island, home to some of the UK’s most diverse and incredible wildlife, including species of conservation importance like grey seals, lies just 12 miles off the coast.
The device is being tested in the UK at Ilfracombe harbour
Jenny Oates, UK SEAS Programme Manager at WWF, said: “The WasteShark will help us fight the waste that enters the harbour, snapping it up before the tide takes it out to sea and it ends up threatening wildlife in other precious marine areas.
“There’s no doubt we need to see major systemic change when it comes to single-use plastic. As we strive to get governments and businesses to commit to turning off the plastic tap, there is an important role for innovative technology to remove it from our seas.”
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