25th November 2020
Nowadays, plastic is one of the major problems related to the environment. According to UNEP data (United Nations Environment Programme), every year about 9 million tons of plastic are spilled in the sea.
Water pollution is now daily news, to the point where none of us are shocked anymore when we talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the biggest collection of plastic and floating trash located in the Pacific Ocean. Its actual dimensions vary between 700,000 km2 and more than 10 million km2… this vastness should not astonish us, but also only worry us!
This big trash island started developing during 1980s. Floating trash is caused by human activity, in particular plastic material. Plastic arrives in the ocean and, pushed by an ocean current which is endowed with a clockwise spiral movement, collecting together and creating the trash floating island.
Yes, you got that right: a gigantic TRASH ISLAND is floating around our oceans. And it is not a real island. A big trash stain similar to this one is “sailing” around the Atlantic Ocean and many others have already shaped or are shaping right now. (The first trash island map of the oceans was made in 2014 and published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientific magazine).
It has been estimated that every year about 1 million sea birds, 100k mammals and an undefined number of fish die because of the pollution of the plastic materials. All the plastic and floating trash dissolve and disintegrate into very small pieces. The schlop created ends up in the fish’s stomach… and going back up through the food chain, it arrives to us humans.
A German study published in the International Environmental magazine “Environmental Science & Technology” supports the belief that the main transport vector of plastic material towards oceans are rivers, especially in countries without well-developed river infrastructure. At the current rate, the plastic quantity unloaded into the oceans will rise to the point where there will be literally more plastic trash than fish themselves. For this, a lot of researchers sustain that, to cut in half the ocean pollution, we must improve the management of our waterways.
On how to intervene in the rivers, the start-up RIVER CLEANING has already thought about it. From Bassano del Grappa (Veneto, Italy), winners of the 2019 “Dall’Idea all’Impresa Green” contest as best business idea in the green sector has the aim of cleaning up rivers from plastic materials.
Image provided by River Cleaning
The prototype was invented by Andrea Citton and his 3 friends Alex Citton, Giorgio Mattiello and Kriss Gheno. It is made up of a series of floating devices, located diagonally all along the river. This allows for the interception of plastic materials, which are bounced from one device to another until they get to a storage unit several meters away in the riverbank. This storage unit is emptied in a second moment, without the need of power source and of constant maintenance. Those small floating watermills, built with very light materials and recycled plastic, are anchored to the stream bed to be able to leave them floating around the water surface. They do not have any impact on the sailing or the fish fauna.
This system was built to need as little maintenance as possible and to have zero impact on the eco-system. It is self-sufficient and works using the river current 24/7, without the need of a power source, as stated above.
After winning the contest organized by Seedup in early 2019, the floating watermill prototype was upgraded again, and the license was sold to Mold srl. This company, which works in the plastic material industry and specializes in designing and plate creation, decided to invest and use 3D printers to test the prototype functionality.
The River Cleaning project has encountered many favorable buyers, not only Italian ones but also international from Egypt, India, China, South Africa and Israel. Those buyers are engaged in the rescue of plastic materials and the subsequent usage thereof.
These days, the fragile equilibrium of sea plants and animals is not the only thing threatened by the earth pollution and the bigger presence of plastics. To overcome the point of no return, we have to act immediately and not just ask ourselves how to stop this happening!
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Image provided by River Cleaning