Plasticatcher: drifting towards a solution for plastic pollution
At Edmire, we devote a serious amount of our time to in-house projects we strongly believe in. That’s how the ‘Plasticatcher’ surfaced, a project dedicated to fighting the growing plastic pollution in our oceans. It’s an affordable and easy-to-use plastic catching installation for rivers, combined with an educational program to separate and recycle plastics.
Plastic Polluted Oceans
Ever heard of ‘the great pacific garbage patch’? It’s a floating island of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where currents drift together to form a massive natural disaster. And this is not the only one. There are more of these plastic floating islands found in all oceans worldwide.
This plastic soup is one of the biggest pollution problems we face today and we, at Edmire, want to contribute to solving this problem. Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans. But where does this plastic trash come from? Our research shows that 90% of the plastic pollution in our oceans emerges from just 10 rivers, all of them located in Asia and Africa.
Focus on Rivers
That insight made us realize that we need to focus on specific rivers in Asia and Africa to prevent plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place. Because once it ends up there, it’s very difficult to remove. Luckily, our colleagues from the Ocean Cleanup are already in the midst of solving that part of the problem. Keep up the good work guys!
Once plastic debris reaches the ocean via the rivers, it will decompose into smaller parts and microplastics due to erosion and sunlight. These microplastics are nearly impossible to withdraw from the water. Therefore, we need to prevent plastics from reaching our oceans altogether.
Local Fishermen in Asia and Africa
When rivers get clogged with plastic, it has a big impact on local communities that largely depend on these rivers for their livelihood. Imagine a fisherman who once fished a river thriving with marine life, now seeing this river transformed in an extremely plastic-polluted waterway.
In order to have a positive impact on these fishermen and their communities, the solution had to be extremely affordable and easy-to-use. It needed to add value to the lives of the local fishermen who implement it to collect and sort plastics. With that in mind, we came up with a solution called the ‘Plasticatcher’.
‘Plasticatcher’ is a low-tech solution to collect and recycle plastic from rivers. The compact kit contains a small amount of installation parts:
Plasticatcher net tubing
Local materials that need to be used or collected for the final installation:
Existing fixation point (e.g. tree, ...)
Local fishermen can use the easy guidelines, included in the kit, to set up the installation on riversides. The installation consists of a large floating tube that needs to be filled with plastic bottles found nearby. It’s then secured to an existing structure e.g. a tree. A floater is attached to retain a U-shape that catches the floating plastic waste.
This specific setup still allows boats and fish to pass by. The tube is hauled in easily from the side of the river, like a fishnet that’s being emptied. But in this case, the fisherman collects plastic waste instead of dinner. For these exact reasons, this solution is more suitable for rivers than the similar concept that spans across the whole river width.
Validation and proof of concept
We put our solution to the test and made a 1/1-scale prototype on a river nearby. The setup was able to retain its U-shape for the effective catching of floating plastics. Testing made it clear that this solution is viable for further development and implementation.
The role of education and plastic recycling
With this solution we aim to reach out to local communities, governments and NGOs. The goal is to educate and promote the setup of plastic sorting and recycling programs. Doing so, valuable plastics can be recycled at the source, generating income for local fishermen. Besides reducing plastic waste we also want to create awareness and educate local communities about the problem, resulting in less plastic ending up in our rivers and oceans.
Can we make this work?
We hope our project will keep evolving in cooperation with NGOs and local fishermen, so it can be widely implemented to tackle this universal problem. Feel free to reach out if you have any remarks and/or suggestions!
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