stub Dive Surveys Show a Need for Innovative Waste Collection Solutions - Securities.io
Connect with us

Sustainability

Dive Surveys Show a Need for Innovative Waste Collection Solutions

mm

Published

 on

Securities.io is not an investment adviser, and this does not constitute investment advice, financial advice, or trading advice. Securities.io does not recommend that any security should be bought, sold, or held by you. Conduct your own due diligence and consult a financial adviser before making any investment decisions.

Dive Survey Results

The menace that the presence of waste generated across the globe poses to us is much more than we can ever imagine. The situation is dreadful, to say the least, and it is getting worse each passing day. 

Reports suggest the earth's production of manufactured chemicals has increased by 40,000% to 400 million tons in just one generation. In 2023, the volume of hazardous waste generated surpassed 350 million tons. 

According to a 2021 report, the problem is more acute in the US, one of the world's greatest and largest economies. The study found that the US generated three times more waste than the global average. 

To be statistically more specific, the United States produced an average of 773 kg of food, plastic, and hazardous waste per person. The US numbers looked even graver when we compared them with that of China and India. China and India together, despite making up more than 36% of the world's population, create 27% of the world's municipal waste. On the other hand, the Americans create three times more waste than China's citizens. 

This problem of waste generated in abundance is not limited to above-ground landfills. A recent survey – first-of-its-kind – made the world aware of the dangers of waste deposited underwater. It was the first-ever dive survey of Lake Tahoe's lakebed. And it pointed towards high volumes of plastic and other litter present under the water. 

First-of-its-Kind Survey of Lake Tahoe's Lakebed

The survey was conducted by researchers from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center in collaboration with the non-profit Clean Up the Lake. The surveyors looked closely at the types of litter discovered on the lakebed. The findings were as follows: 

  • An average of 83 pieces of plastic litter per kilometer was found. 
  • The lakebed near Hidden Beach and South Sand Harbour had more litter than the average, 140 items per kilometer and 124 items per kilometer, respectively. 
  • While a single stretch that was free of plastic litter could not be found, some common items included food containers, bottles, plastic bags, and toys.
  • The researchers could identify the six most common plastic types from the litter samples found. These were polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene, polyester/polyethylene terephthalate, polyethene, polypropylene, and polyamide.

The knowledge about the type of plastic samples would help in many ways. According to Julia Davidson, an undergraduate student working on the project:

“We can use this litter data to point to the dominant types of plastics and compare them to microplastic data.” 

And Davidson's remarks bring us to the even bigger problem of microplastics. 

Microplastics and Their Harm-Inflicting Capacity

Microplastics refer to tiny plastic particles that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter. They could be generated from the breakdown of larger plastic waste, microbeads present in personal care products, or synthetic fibers that fall out while washing clothes. These microplastics, owing to their size and longevity, can cause much harm. Wildlife can digest them and transfer the toxic substances that they have absorbed from the surrounding environment to vital organisms, causing physical and chemical harm. 

Microplastics and other types of plastic categories discovered during the dive survey, therefore, need innovative waste collection solutions. They are ubiquitous, and simple cleanliness drives, no matter how consistently and frequently they're carried out, would always fall short of getting rid of them. 

Cleaning the mess created underwater is all the more difficult because they can not be located readily and are beyond easy access. In the following segments, we will look at some companies that work specifically to clean waterways, lakes, rivers, and oceans. 

#1. River Cleaning 

Made up of a series of floating devices, the river cleaning system needs to be positioned diagonally on the course of the river so that it can intercept plastic waste and transport it to the river bank area, where special storages are installed. 

There are two versions of the River Cleaning system:

  • River Cleaning Plastic
  • River Cleaning Plastic V4.22 

The first version keeps its anchoring structure below the water level, while the second one keeps it above water. The first one is a self-leveling solution that can easily disguise itself in the environment and prove its worth in all types of waterways. The second one comes with incremental benefits of being able to produce electricity and work efficiently in channelized waterways as well. 

Overall, the solutions are sustainable as they draw energy directly from the river current without requiring auxiliary power. It has zero impact on the ecosystem.  

The river cleaning system won the European Advanced SDG Award for its contribution to meeting the UN's sustainable development goals. 

On January 1st, 2021, River Cleaning raised an undisclosed amount/ non-equity assistance from Cleantech Open. The startup is headquartered in Casola, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. 

#2. The Great Bubble Barrier

The Great Bubble Barrier's solution can catch plastic over the full width and depth of rivers, ensuring that they do not end up in the ocean. The solution, so far, has registered a catch rate of 86%. It can effectively remove plastic that could size anywhere between 1 millimeter and 1 meter. The solution has achieved all these results without hampering regular activities in the river. It stays operational 24X7. 

The Great Bubble Barrier solution pivots on a perforated tube placed at the bottom of the waterway where air is pumped through. This pumped air generates a screen of bubbles. This screen blocks plastics and directs suspended plastics to the surface. Like the River Cleaning solution, this also has to be placed diagonally in the waterway to guide the plastic waste to the side, to the catchment system. 

The Great Bubble Barrier ran a crowdfunding campaign from January 2018 to May 2018. It raised 55,584 Euros from 1240 supporters. It also won the Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge in September 2018, one of the world's largest competitions in the field of sustainable entrepreneurship, where more than 800 Green startups from all over the world submitted their sustainable business plans. As winners, the Great Bubble Barrier received funding and six months of expert coaching to optimize its business opportunities. 

In 2019, The Great Bubble Barrier implemented the first Bubble Barrier in a canal of Amsterdam commissioned by the Regional Water Authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht, and the municipality of Amsterdam.

#3. Ichthion

Ichthion, a British-Ecuadorian startup, started its journey in 2017 from the laboratories of Imperial College, London. 

As of now, the company's portfolio consists of three technology streams: Azure, Cobalt, and Ultramarine. These streams differ in their suitability to specific environments and waterway types. However, they work with the same objective of barring macro and microplastics from entering into the phytoplankton growth areas in the coastal zones. 

We briefly look at these three streams in the segments that follow. 

Cobalt: For Microplastics in Rivers and Coastal Areas

Cobalt is a self-cleaning, ducted turbomachinery unit that can be installed either as a power-generating turbine or into a ship in a modified format. It leverages the relative motion of its host infrastructure to extract plastic pollution from fluvial and marine environments. 

Azure: For Macroplastics in Rivers

This technology system works as an enhanced barrier in rivers and prevents plastic waste from reaching marine environments. The solution is capable of collecting up to 80 tons of plastic per day from any river. 

Ultramarine: Dynamic System for Ships

This system can be retrofitted or installed into large shipping vessels. It thrives on the scale and efficiency of ram filter feeders that come with a secondary sorting stage. 

Ichthion was one of the winners of the Innovate UK competition called “Towards Zero Waste,” for which it obtained a grant of $600,000 for the development of its technologies. 

The company also completed its seed round in 2019. It also signed a contract for $1 million with the University of Santa Bárbara for the deployment of its Azure technology, according to reports published in November 2020. The company sought an investment of USD 9.4 million as part of its Series A round during the same time.

Click here to learn how microplastics are polluting our bodies.

The Need for Innovative Waste Collection and Other Examples Around It

Underwater waste management, in particular, needs to improve drastically. Estimates indicate the presence of 50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics in the ocean. 

Nearly four-fifths of all marine pollution is caused by plastic waste, with 8-10 million metric tons of plastic waste ending up in the ocean every year. Each piece of single-use plastic takes anywhere between 500-1,000 years to degrade. Moreover, it does not decompose. With this trend continuing, there will soon come a time when plastic will outweigh all fish in the sea. 

The gravity of the situation has compelled concerned global communities to innovate as efficiently and rapidly as possible. Apart from the companies we have mentioned above, the World Economic Forum has taken note of multiple other initiatives. We will conclude by taking a brief look at some of them since they create hope and optimism for a cleaner future. 

Chemolex company, a social enterprise, and Smart Villages, a non-profit initiative, helped put up ten plastic capture devices along the Athi River and its tributaries, the Nairobi and Ngong Rivers. Not only has the solution helped divert more than 1,000 tonnes from Kenya's waterways, but the diverted materials have helped create plastic fencing poles, pavement tiles, flooring, and roofing for building constructions. 

The solution uses a conveyor mechanism, and so do the Kingston Harbour interceptors in Jamaica. The Jamaican interceptors, deployed by the Netherlands-based not-for-profit The Ocean Cleanup, utilize a barrier and conveyor system for the waste to be halted and extracted from gullies and returned to shore for recycling or efficient disposal.w

Cleaning waterbeds of plastics has also attracted the use of AI. For instance, a Panama-based non-profit, Marea Verde, has installed a water-wheel-powered waste capture system customized for the Juan Díaz River. AI helps the system categorize the trash and improve its data collection capabilities. The solution has already collected more than twenty-1.3 cubic meter bags of plastic bottles. 

While solutions have been as sophisticated as to use AI, they have been as simple as being built out of bamboo. The Song Hong River in Vietnam has seen the installation of plastic waste traps with two floating booms with mesh that guide floating waste to a trap connected to the riverbank. Within the first four months of its installation, the solution had seen the removal of more than 450 kilograms of floating waste from the waterway. 

The diversity of solutions indicates that although the problem is significantly widespread, there are many ways to tackle it. We must also remember that the lack of recycling facilities is another challenge that innovative waste collection solutions must address.

One estimate says that out of 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced by humans to date, only 9% could be resolved. In essence, we need to come up with solutions that not only capture plastic waste and stop it from going underwater but also help us recycle it to meet many of our needs. This market of potential regenerative solutions was as big as 3 trillion pounds sterlings in 2020. It will grow further. 

We can, therefore, reasonably expect more investments flowing in this direction. While innovative startups will continue to be the microcosms of this space, they would also have to incorporate large tech companies that can invest their resources to scale up the solutions globally in a very short time. 

Click here for the list of five best bioplastic companies.

Gaurav started trading cryptocurrencies in 2017 and has fallen in love with the crypto space ever since. His interest in everything crypto turned him into a writer specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Soon he found himself working with crypto companies and media outlets. He is also a big-time Batman fan.