An accidental environmentalist

What do a whale sharks, robots and plastic pollution have in common?

A new plastic gobbling invention is taking a ‘bite’ out of marine pollution and making a difference in the global fight to clean oceans and waterways. Inspired by nature and created to preserve nature, the WasteShark’s design and purpose was modeled after the slow-moving, filter-feeding whale shark, one of nature’s most efficient reapers of marine biomass.

The WasteShark is an invention of Richard Hardiman, CEO of RanMarine Technology, a drone technology company based in the Netherlands. As Mr. Hardiman puts it, he invented a machine. In doing so, as his young son quite profoundly said, he created a life for his family out of his head. Mr. Hardiman took an idea that popped out of thin air into his self-described noisy mind, stepped away from his extreme dedication to procrastination, and just did it. He took action; he executed on the idea. You see, many people have great ideas, but what separates a successful idea from a passing brilliant thought that never goes anywhere is the execution.

The product expected to help eliminate plastic pollution was first launched in the canals of the Netherlands in 2017. That execution of an idea swirling in one man’s brain is now on its way to protects the earth’s waterways from the marine debris that threatens to choke it. This new innovation is replacing the traditional, less efficient method of marine waste removal: humans on boats armed with nets.

The idea is simple: After guzzling plastics, microplastics, alien and pest vegetation such as algae and all types of floating debris with its mouth, it returns to shore to dispose of the waste. In addition to this ability to collect waste, RanMarine has pioneered the collection of live data from water-borne drones, to measure water health quality. The WasteShark is designed for round-the-clock waste collection, but it can also send data on water conditions back to a central command point. With 180 liters (47.5 gallons) of capacity and an eight hour runtime, this hardworking robot can remove 500kg (1100lb) of waste a day.


The WasteShark is also easy to use and deploy. It uses 4G onboard communications and an easy setup process. Additionally, the drone uses advanced battery technology ensuring emission-free operation on the water, and not adding to the water’s pollution. The technology is equipped for collision avoidance, and is perfect for canals, ports and along waterlines where plastics inevitably meet the ocean.

It can work both manually, operated with a remote, and fully autonomously. The autonomous WasteShark can detect when its battery is low and when its basket is full. It will then return to its docking station, or SharkPod. The SharkPod is the world’s first autonomous floating docking station for waste-clearing drones. With the ability to deploy, dock and charge up to five WasteShark drones at any time, this latest tool in pollution-fighting technology is enabling ports, harbours and cities to operate a twenty-four hour autonomous solution to remove floating waste from the water. With the ability to remove one ton of waste per drone per day, RanMarine expects the SharkPod to be capable of removing up to one hundred tons or more of debris and waste per month.

A self-proclaimed “accidental environmentalist”, Mr. Hardiman is an entrepreneur at heart and believes that it is not governmental and non-governmental organizations alone that can and will improve the environment. He believes, and has proven, that businesses seeking profits will produce the innovations necessary to protect the planet. To stop or restrict economic activity is to restrict innovation, and innovation is our best weapon against the problems we face today.

From the US to the UAE, the UK to Australia and South Africa, the WasteShark’s global deployment has elevated this amazing invention to one of the leading solutions in the fight against plastic pollution in our waterways. Even better: RanMarine, the company behind the WasteShark, will soon have more than one size of the WasteShark available. The MegaShark, for example, will be made for open-ocean navigation. With an estimated one million plastic bottles entering the ocean every minute, it looks like it will be a welcome helper in the fight against plastic pollution in the oceans.

Read article on Oceanographic magazine

Words By Shelly Mateer 

Photographs by RanMarine Technology
Additional Photographs by Lewis Burnett

Marine robots collect rubbish from the ocean

Article by Smiley News

We’re well aware of the amount of rubbish that is collected and ends up in the ocean every year, wreaking havoc on wildlife.

And that’s why Dutch invention – RanMarine’s WasteSharks – is such an innovative idea. The company has 157cm wide aquatic robots that capture rubbish in the sea and bring it back to land. They’re pretty big, too. They can hold 160 litres of rubbish, plants, and other debris from the water.

The original idea for the robots came about when founder Richard Hardiman saw how marine litter was being cleaned by water authorities, using small boats and pool nets to remove the litter.

Richard thought he could design and come up with a more effective way to remove waste from water using drones. The original motivation was a desire for greater efficiency – but also to lead him into the environmental space, where he saw how effective new technology could be in helping our planet.

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The WasteShark was originally invented as a concept in 2013, but wasn’t developed into a first prototype until 2015. In 2016, Richard was invited to enter a maritime accelerator in Rotterdam, the Netherlands where he received funding to develop the first version of the WasteShark we know today.

“The purpose of the WasteShark is to remove waste, litter (plastics) and harmful algae from the surface of the water,” he tells Smiley News. “The idea is that, very much like a small autonomous vacuum cleaner… this machine can operate in a similar fashion, cleaning the water constantly.

“Our purpose is to develop technology to make our world a more livable place and ease the pressure humans are adding to our fragile water resources and ecosystems”

“The WasteShark and our developing platforms are part of the greater vision of making collection of waste and pollution in water more efficient, less costly and ultimately less harmful than current methods used.”

Inspired to act?

Here are three UK-based organisations working to remove plastic from our oceans. Support their work to help protect wildlife and nature yourself by following the links below.

City to Sea

City to Sea is an environmental organisation working to end plastic pollution at its roots. They collaborate with communities and businesses to challenge the problem with the support of individual activists from around the world.

Get involvedVolunteerDonate.

The Marine Conservation Society

This organisation is made up of a passionate community of volunteers who campaign and work towards cleaner oceans.

Get involvedVolunteerDonate.

Surfers Against Sewage

Surfers Against Sewage is a campaign group aimed at tackling ocean pollution of various kinds through lobbying authorities and companies.

Get involvedVolunteerDonate.