Written by: Josh Gabbatiss
‘WasteShark will help us fight the rubbish that enters the harbour, snapping it up before the tide takes it out to sea’
An autonomous marine robot has been released at a Devon harbour in an attempt to clear it of plastic waste.
With the ability to “swallow” up to 60kg of debris in one trip, the WasteShark has been proposed as a way to clean up coastal waters in the country’s most vital marine zones.
Modelling their drone on the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, the creators say it emits no pollution and poses no threat to local wildlife.
Unlike its enormous namesake, which swims around with its mouth open to capture plankton and small fish, the WasteShark consumes any plastic waste that crosses its path.
The robot has already been launched in five countries since it was created by Dutch environmental technology company RanMarine.
Its inventors say a single WasteShark deployed five days a week has the capacity to clear 15.6 tons of waste from waterways every year.
The launch at Ilfracombe Harbour in north Devon is part of an effort by WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue to protect Britain’s protected marine areas, which have been specially designated due to their important species and habitats.
“The marine protected areas in north Devon are home to some of the country’s most incredible coastlines and marine life, but plastic is having a devastating effect on our oceans,” said Dr Jenny Oates, UK seas programme manager at WWF.
“The WasteShark will help us fight the rubbish 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.”
Dr Oates said “major systemic change” was needed by businesses and government to curb plastic waste, but that innovative technologies like the WasteShark also had a role.
The device must be powered up at a charging station, and can roam for up to eight hours at a time.
It can be programmed to seek out hotspots where waste gathers, and can also collect important data on water quality as it travels.
“WasteShark is cheaper, greener, more effective and less disruptive than other methods of dealing with marine litter,” said Oliver Cunningham, chief commercial officer at RanMarine.
“We hope to see our drone in cities and towns – wherever humans live on water – around the world.”
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