Hackaday Prize 2023: Hydrocleaner Nips Pollution In The Bud

It’s unfortunate, but a lot of trash ends up in our rivers and, eventually, our oceans. Cleaning efforts can be costly and require a lot of human power. One of the ways to keep trash out from reaching the ocean is to attack it at the river level. That’s the idea behind [Xieshi Zhang]’s Hydrocleaner, a semi-autonomous river cleaning robot.

One current method for removing trash is by remote-controlled boats with nets attached. These typically travel in one direction, sort of sweeping left and right and probably missing trash in the process.

Hydrocleaner is capable of turning back and forth, ensuring a much more complete clean-up. The camera spots trash, and the twin-pontoon design allows it to flow easily between them and into the net behind. Currently, the brain behind this boat is a Jetson Nano, although this is a work in progress. The eventual idea is that the boat would navigate itself using GNSS guidance and would navigate toward the trash.

Of course, you could always fight trash with trash.

Using Trash To Keep Plastic Trash Out Of Oceans By Kabooming Them

For a few years now, [Richard] of Tropical Ocean Cleanup fame has been working hard to clean the Philippines of the plastic trash that litters everything, and washes down the canals and rivers into the ocean. Using nothing but what is essentially trash – old car tires, rope and empty soda bottles – he creates ‘kabooms’ that prevent this trash  floating in the canals from polluting the beaches, kill wildlife and gather in the oceans. In a recent video he covers how he creates these systems, and the basics of how they are installed.

We previously covered [Richard]’s efforts, and although these kabooms have received a few tweaks along the way, the basic principle has remained the same. The empty bottles provides the buoyancy, while the tires are excellent structural elements that can take a beating from the weather and debris. Some of the kabooms are lashed together with rope, while for other types holes are drilled into the tires using a hole saw, all of which help to create a self-supporting trash capture system that can be installed easily with a group of volunteers.

Fetching the thus captured trash is still a bit of a struggle, requiring a fair bit of manual labor, nets and boats from local fishermen when they have some spare time, but the effect is very much noticeable on the nearby beaches. In addition to these trash capturing kabooms, [Richard] also promotes trash collecting at schools, organizes trash pick-up events and trash collecting points, to raise local awareness of the need to keep plastic trash out of the environment and burn pits.

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Keeping The Philippines’ Surface Waters Clean With Kabooms

[Rich] over at Tropical Ocean Cleanup on YouTube has been working hard to prevent plastic waste from getting into the waters around the Philippines. Even as a mostly one-man crew, he’s collecting large sums of plastic waste using a boom system which he fittingly made out of waste: old tires and empty plastic bottles. This Kaboom system is a low-cost method of capturing any waste so that it can be collected and properly disposed of. In addition [Rich] also installs containers where locals can dispose of their plastic trash.

The Kaboom system is detailed by [Rich] in this video (also linked after the break). As a shoestring budget project, it relies heavily on donations and local support to install more of these booms. It is however a highly effective way to prevent such common plastic waste from making it into the oceans in the first place. Having these booms made out of waste items that are commonly found where humans roam should make this a snap.

Ideally, local governments would be installing such capturing systems and easy waste disposal options, but sometimes it seems grassroots efforts like these are what will bring the fastest change.

Curious about what to do with all that plastic waste once you collect and identify it? How about making some plastic bricks?

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These Plastic Pavers Are Earth Savers

Plastic waste is everywhere you look, and there’s seemingly no end in sight for both the demand and production of plastic goods. So isn’t it time to try putting all that waste from the plastic industry to good use? [Nzambi Matee], a materials engineer in Kenya, thinks so. She was tired of seeing plastic littering the streets of Nairobi, and saw an opportunity to solve two problems at once — cleaning up the streets and paving them with plastic.

Three years ago, [Nzambi] quit her job as an oil industry data analyst and used all her savings to pursue a solution for the pesky plastic problem. She built a lab in her mother’s backyard and begin experimenting with plastics and sand, melding them together to make blocks.

After about a year of trial and error, she had discovered which plastics worked and which didn’t. Then she developed machinery to churn out the sand-plastic paste and stamp it into sturdy paving bricks. Her company Gjenge Makers gets most of their plastic free from factories that would otherwise have to pay to dispose of it. The bricks are strong, lightweight, and nearly indestructible compared to concrete pavers. In the video after the break, there’s a shot of [Nzambi] spiking one on the ground to demonstrate its toughness.

Now, her company produces about 1,500 of these pavers each day. [Nzambi] and her team are planning to start making building blocks as well. With a melting point somewhere above 350° C, the material seems pretty well-suited for that purpose.

Want to do more than just recycle your plastic, but don’t know how? You could start by turning plastic bottles into rope, and then use the rope to make things like brooms and brushes.

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Targeting Rivers To Keep Plastic Pollution Out Of The Ocean

Since the widespread manufacture of plastics began in earnest in the early 1950s, plastic pollution in the environment has become a major global problem. Nowhere is this more evident than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A large ocean gyre that has become a swirling vortex full of slowly decaying plastic trash, it has become a primary target for ocean cleanup campaigns in recent years.

However, plastic just doesn’t magically appear in the middle of the ocean by magic. The vast majority of plastic in the ocean first passes through river systems around the globe. Thanks to new research, efforts are now beginning to turn to tackling the issue of plastic pollution before it gets out to the broader ocean, where it can be even harder to clean up.
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