This aquatic robot is the plastic-eating shark that our oceans so desperately need.
Every year, roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the world’s oceans. That plastic just sits around and floats, causing fish and marine life to mistake it for food and eat it, or otherwise get tangled up and drown. If that doesn’t happen, toxic chemicals are released as the plastic slowly breaks down over many years.
That is to say, plastic is bad. And there’s a veritable ocean full of the stuff -a problem that gets worse every year.
Even if the world could agree to stop throwing its trash into the ocean, there are still billions of tons of plastic that needs to be removed. So, a Dutch company decided to make a robot to clean up the world’s oceans.
It’s called WasteShark from RanMarine, and it’s basically a Roomba for the sea. Modeled after a whale shark, the WasteShark has a big, gaping mouth which it uses to capture floating plastic and then take it back to shore where it can be disposed of safely, either by recycling or by landfill.
(Admittedly, plastic in the ground isn’t great either, but it’s better than plastic floating in the ocean.)
The WasteShark is entirely battery-powered and emits no pollution. It can sortie for 8 hours at a time and collect up to 131 lbs of trash per trip. Operating for a full year would remove 15.6 tons of garbage -a small dent in the ocean’s worth of plastic that we need to clean up, but it’s a start.
WasteShark can be set to autonomous mode, where it basically follows a predefined GPS path and gathers waste along the way, or it can be remotely controlled by an operator armed with an Xbox controller. It can also take water quality samples along the way, making it perfect to clean up local beaches and harbors.
One WasteShark recently launched off the coast of Devon in the UK, according to The Independent, and there are currently 5 WasteSharks operating across the globe. We’ll need far more than just 5 of these ocean Roombas if we’re to clean up the whole world, but it’s a very good place to start.