A robot shark hungry for plastic is going to collect litter 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 1,100 pounds of waste every day – equivalent to 22,700 plastic bottles.
The electric shark has been released into Canary Wharf, where it can travel through 5km of water before needing to recharge.
It comes at a time when plastic waste worldwide has nearly doubled since 2000, with only nine percent of it successfully recycled, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
But Britvic-owned Aqua Libra, which launches the shark, hopes to counteract this by recycling the collected waste wherever possible.
WasteShark has been released in Canary Wharf, where the plastic can break up in the water
The robot shark can ‘eat’ the equivalent of 22,700 plastic bottles every day in the Thames
WasteShark: Key Specs
Length: 61.8 inches
Height: 20.4 inches
Width: 42.9 inches
Weight: 158.7 lbs
Maximum speed: 1.8 mph
Autonomous mode: duration of 6 hours
Pictured: RanMarine invented the robotic shark
Steve Potts, Managing Director, Britvic Beyond the Bottle said: ‘Ensuring that packaging never becomes waste is a core part of our vision, and we are delighted to be bringing the brilliantly innovative WasteShark technology to London in partnership with the team at Canary Wharf Group to help combat plastic pollution in this revolutionary way.’
While collecting waste, the shark also collects water quality data in the London River.
Waste is rife in the Thames and several other UK rivers, with warnings issued just earlier today about sewer contamination.
2019 also saw five decades of plastic pollution pour into the Thames after a decades-old landfill full of toxic waste was exposed by erosion.
The waste spewed out of an old landfill site near East Tilbury, in Essex, causing serious ‘ecological hazards’.
While London’s WasteShark will be the first to head to the waters of the Thames, similar robotic sharks have previously been deployed in other parts of the country.
Four years ago, a high-tech water drone was launched at Ifracombe Harbor in Devon for its first test in the UK.
According to experts, it could “swallow” up to 130 pounds of trash at one time, and 30,000 pounds of trash a year if running five days a week.
The bot is deployed at a time when rivers across the country are polluted
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 similar ‘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 the robot shark which was deployed to the port of Ifracombe 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 around the world.
Earlier he said: ‘I’m not against plastic, it’s a useful product. But a huge mountain of plastic waste ends up in the environment. It’s about how you can recycle plastic even better.
‘We can make great strides in that and the WasteShark can contribute to that. My dream is to have millions of WasteSharks active all over the world. Not only to collect waste, but also to collect data.’
The price of the robot remains unclear. MailOnline has contacted the developer for more information.
London’s urban developers, the Canary Wharf Group, also hope WasteShark’s “innovative” technology will change London’s harmful waste patterns.
Sophie Goddard, director of sustainability, Canary Wharf Group, said: ‘At the Canary Wharf Group, we strive to transform urban spaces into extraordinary environments that work for both nature and people.
“As part of this, we are so excited to launch the WasteShark in partnership with Aqua Libra. This innovative marine technology helps us tackle waste and protect the environment.”
Every year, eight million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean
Of the 30 billion plastic bottles used by UK households each year, only 57 per cent are currently recycled.
Since half of this goes to landfill, half of all plastic bottles that are recycled are thrown away.
About 700,000 plastic bottles per day end up as litter.
This is largely due to plastic packaging around bottles being non-recyclable.
Bottles are an important contributor to the increasing amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
Researchers warned that eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year – the equivalent of one truckload per minute.
The amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans will exceed the amount of fish by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to continue recycling, a report released in 2016 revealed.
At the current rate, this will increase to four truckloads per minute by 2050, surpassing indigenous life to become the largest mass inhabiting the oceans.
An overwhelming 95 per cent of plastic packaging – worth £65-£92 billion – is lost to the economy after a single use, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report.
And available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tons of plastic in the ocean today.
Plastic pollution is devastating the world’s ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial. It litters riverbanks, traps 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 shoreline on the planet, scientists warn.
More than half of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
The only industrialized Western country on the list of the top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at number 20.
The U.S. and Europe don’t mismanage their collected waste, so the plastic waste coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.
While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic ending up in the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world’s total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.