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Plastic-eating ‘shark’ lends bite to clean-up operations

The Netherlands – ‘Waste Shark’ is the name given to an autonomous water drone which is currently cleaning the waters in the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Four of these ‘sharks’ will be on patrol for a six-month test period under a contract with the port authority.

A RanMarine company concept, the solar-powered drone’s open mouth 35 cm below the surface of the water can collect 0.5 tonnes of material before it is full.

Owing to its location at the mouth of several major rivers, Rotterdam is one of the largest ports in Europe and attracts high volumes of marine waste. In addition to the Waste Shark, the Port of Rotterdam Authority is also testing a drone called AquaSmartXL which can monitor the area by camera. Both drones are seen as particularly useful tools for areas which are difficult for manned vessels to reach, such as under bridges or around jetties.

The Waste Shark can operate around the clock, taking environmental measurements and learning more efficient routes over time. As with the Ocean Cleanup prototype developed by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, the idea was inspired by a desire to tackle the ever-growing problem of marine plastic debris. If the drones prove to be a success and can be made at a reasonable cost, they could ‘potentially be deployed by the thousands in coastal areas around the world’ , it is reasoned.

As demonstrated by a water-powered collection wheel in Baltimore, USA, the best place to start tackling marine plastic waste is at its source in harbours and canals.

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