New hybrid turbo-machinery system is designed to consume small plastics which are polluting the oceans. Matthew Stock reports.
There's some 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world's oceans. Eventually it breaks down into so-called microplastic - small enough to be swallowed by fish. Fish that can eventually end up on our plate. But this device called Remora, when fitted to sea vessels, filters and removes ocean plastic while moving through the ocean. Designer Robert Edwin Rouse says it catches plastic similar to the way a basking shark feeds SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT EDWIN ROUSE, POSTGRADUATE AT THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART, SAYING: "Usually the solutions that have been offered up have been considered cost-prohibitive or they lack the scale needed to tackle the problem. And the problem is one that is very difficult to tackle. The scale of it is huge, there's a large amount of plastic.. The Remora system offers a new class of turbomachinery units that try to get around the problems of scale and cost by mixing two different technology streams together -- that of power generational thrust along with a filtration mechanism." He's built two prototypes; one with a marine turbine to generate power, the other provides thrust. Plastic that drifts into the device moves to the outer edge, where Rouse says tubes would be fitted to extract it. He added that plankton, an inevitable by-catch, can be easily skimmed off and returned to the sea. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT EDWIN ROUSE, POSTGRADUATE AT THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART, SAYING: "The Remora system has been designed to handle smaller plastics, so although it won't handle a plastic bag, you can reconfigure the layout to handle a variety of different sizes, such as anything ranging from 20 millimetre to 1 milliimetre plastic particles." Rouse is now looking for partners to help test Remora in the real-world. And it couldn't come soon enough. Greenpeace has said plastic pollution poses a threat to the entire ocean ecosystem. And UK-based charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that, measured by weight, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.