A robotic shark hungry for plastic is to snap up waste in the River Thames as part of efforts to tackle water pollution.
WasteShark is the first marine robot to take London’s river by storm, with the ability to ‘eat’ up to 1,100lbs of waste everyday – equivalent to 22,700 plastic bottles.
The electric shark has been released in Canary Wharf where it can travel through 3.1 miles (5km) of water before needing a recharge.
It comes at a time when plastic waste has almost doubled globally since 2000, with only nine per cent of this successfully recycled, according to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report.
But Britvic-owned Aqua Libra, which is launching the shark, hope to combat this by recycling the collected rubbish wherever possible.
WasteShark has been released in Canary Wharf where it can snap up plastic in the water
The robotic shark can ‘eat’ up an equivalent of 22,700 plastic bottles everyday in the Thames
WasteShark: Key specifications
Length: 61.8 inches
Height: 20.4 inches
Width: 42.9 inches
Max speed: 1.8 mph
Autonomous mode: 6h duration
Pictured: RanMarine invented robotic shark
Steve Potts, Managing Director, Britvic Beyond the Bottle said: ‘Ensuring packaging never becomes waste is a core part of our vision, and we are excited to be bringing the brilliantly innovative WasteShark technology to London in partnership with the team at Canary Wharf Group to help tackle plastic pollution in this revolutionary way.’
While gathering rubbish, the shark will also collect data on water quality in London’s river.
Waste is rife in the Thames and several other British rivers, with warnings issued just earlier today surrounding sewage pollution.
In 2019, five decades of plastic pollution also flowed into the Thames after a decades-old landfill full of toxic waste was exposed by erosion.
The rubbish flooded out from an old tip near East Tilbury, in Essex, and caused serious ‘ecological risk’.
Although London’s WasteShark will be the first to head to Thames waters, other similar robotic sharks have previously been deployed in other areas of the country.
Four years ago, a high-tech aquatic drone was released in lfracombe Harbour in Devon for its first test in the UK.
It could ‘swallow’ up to 130lbs of debris in one trip and 30,000Ibs of waste per year if it ran for five days a week, according to experts.
The bot is being deployed at a time when pollution is rife in rivers across the country
The electric shark can travel through 5km of water before needing a recharge (Pictured left to right: Tristan Farmworth, Malcolm Mcdermott, Richard Hardiman Simona Whyte, Steve Potts, Darren Kirby)
It follows the success of other similarly designed ‘sharks’ that have been used to collect plastic waste on an international scale. These have been deployed in countries such as South Africa
Pictured: RanMarine invented robotic shark deployed at lfracombe Harbour in Devon in 2019
The sharks have also been successfully launched in a number of other countries including South Africa, South Korea and the UAE.
Their creator Richard Hardiman shared that his ultimate goal is to have ‘millions of WasteSharks’ in waters across the world.
He previously said: ‘I am not against plastic, it is a convenient product. But we do have a huge mountain of plastic waste entering the environment. It’s all about how to recycle plastic even better.
‘We can make great strides in that and the WasteShark can contribute. My dream is to have millions of WasteSharks active all over the world. Not only to collect waste, but also to collect data.’
WasteShark models currently range from £22,000 to £31,000, according to RanMarine, with maintenance costs varying between £900 to £1,300 on a yearly basis.
However, the robot at Canary Wharf is the first example of a lease-to-own option with costs offset by a future purchase of a WasteShark.
The lease prices were not disclosed.
London urban developers, the Canary Wharf Group, also hope the ‘innovative’ technology of WasteShark will spark change in London’s detrimental waste patterns.
Sophie Goddard, director of sustainability, Canary Wharf Group, said: ‘At the Canary Wharf Group we aim to transform urban spaces into extraordinary environments which work for nature as well as people.
‘As part of this we are so pleased to be launching the WasteShark in partnership with Aqua Libra. This innovative marine technology will help us to tackle waste and maintain the environment.’
Eight million tonnes of plastics find their way into the ocean every year
Of 30 billion plastic bottles used by UK households each year, only 57 per cent are currently recycled.
With half of these going to landfill, half of all plastic bottles that are recycled go to waste.
Around 700,000 plastic bottles a day end up as litter.
This is largely due to plastic wrapping around bottles that are non-recyclable.
Bottles are a major contributor to the increasing amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
Researchers warned eight million tonnes of plastics currently find their way into the ocean every year – the equivalent of one truckload every minute.
The amount of plastic rubbish in the world’s oceans will outweigh fish by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to further recycle, a report released in 2016 revealed.
At current rates, this will worsen to four truckloads per minute in 2050 and outstrip native life to become the largest mass inhabiting the oceans.
An overwhelming 95 per cent of plastic packaging – worth £65 – £92billion – is lost to the economy after a single use, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report stated.
And available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today.
Plastic pollution is ruining the ecosystems of the world, both marine and terrestrial. It litters shorelines, snags animals and suffocates entire populations of animals
So much plastic is dumped into the sea each year that it would fill five carrier bags for every foot of coastline on the planet, scientists have warned.
More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20.
The US and Europe are not mismanaging their collected waste, so the plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.
While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.