Coastwide
WasteShark is designed to collect trash that has accumulated around harbors (Credit: RanMarine)

The Increasing Worldwide Popularity Of Trash-collecting ‘Sharks’

People nowadays are inventing creative ways on how to participate in the fight against climate change. Some are using a fishing net to pick up plastic waste in the ocean, while others incorporate fun in social media to raise awareness in the growing concern over our environment.

The so-called ‘Trash Challenge’ which became viral months ago is an effective way to clean up the litter around us and, at the same time, provides an opportunity for teens to speak up about issues affecting our environment.

And just recently, a new device is welcomed with open arms by the public — which does not only draw attention — but created a massive impact in the lives of aquatic organisms as a whole.

The viral technology is called ‘WasteShark,’ an aquatic drone designed to devour all floating debris including plastic and other non-biodegradable garbage that has accumulated along coastal waters before it drifts out to sea and other bodies of water. The brainchild of this creative invention is a South African entrepreneur named Richard Hardiman.

Hardiman was inspired by two men four years ago, who used a fishing net to pick up plastic waste gathered along the Cape Town, South Africa waterfront. He came up with the idea after observing the two whose only defense to combat trash is a pool net.

During the January 2018 TED Talk, Hardiman revealed that everyone could tidy up and his part on the fight against climate change would be more significant. And that’s the boom of ‘WasteShark;’ the future of waste management.

Initially launched in 2016, the WasteShark draws inspiration from the whale shark: which is a filter feeder that sucks in large amounts of unsuspecting small fish and plankton. The vessel’s ‘mouth’ is located between its two parallel exteriors that scoop up plastic bottles and other waste materials from up to a foot below the water’s surface. The drone can be steered with the help of remote control or by using a plotted map on an iPad.

It can work for about eight hours on a single charge and collect as much as 1,120 pounds or 508 kilograms of waste before finishing the task and returning to the collection point. The locomotion system of this device is equipped with a laser imaging system that allows it to steer clear from any obstacles and ‘learn’ the most efficient gathering routes.

Aside from collecting trash, what is exceptional about this technology is its ‘sensors’ which enable the device to manage data such as PH levels, the salinity of water, and temperature — so one can determine the area’s water quality.

Hardiman believes that WasteShark is the future of waste management — which helps combat the world’s growing concern on climate change. It is most effective in ‘waste chokeholds’ like harbors, rivers, and canals. It has proven to be environment-friendly because this portable device emits no carbon, produces neither light nor noise pollution, and causes no harm to marine life.

WasteShark is also very light in the pocket, as it is cheaper, unlike other waste collection methods. According to Oliver Cunningham, chief commercial officer at RanMarine, the Dutch Environmental Technology company founded by Hardiman, the drone is effective and less disruptive than other methods of dealing with marine litter.

Today, WasteSharks have successfully created a name in five countries as it helped clean up its harbor waters. These countries, including the Netherlands, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates, first experienced the miracle brought by this device.

And just this March, the United Kingdom’s Sky Ocean Rescue, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), joined the cause with the release of a WasteShark in the Ilfracombe Harbor. The port lies within England’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) that is home to a diverse species of marine animals like gray seals and pink sea fan corals. The main target of this movement is to collect the plastic before it gets taken out to the sea by the tide and will help save the lives of aquatic organisms which often mistake toxic polymer pieces as food.

Hardiman and some non-profit groups are hopeful that these drones will help prevent and at least reduce the estimated 8.1 million tons of plastic that enter our oceans every year. While other countries take on the initiatives to ban the use of plastics and other toxic materials, more efforts are needed to be done to protect the innocent ocean dwellers.

The Hardiman’s drone is just a step towards creating change in the environment as more and more aquatic organisms are dying from eating and getting caught in plastic.

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