River plastics removal
Working every day at sea, Allseas witnesses first-hand the devastating effect plastic pollution is having on the world’s oceans and marine life. Plastic pollution is a global problem, and we are committed to the cause to help clean our oceans of plastic trash. Within the Innovations Department, a team of dedicated engineers is leading the way, leveraging our engineering expertise and creative thinking to develop systems to catch plastics in rivers and waterways before they can reach the seas and oceans.
Analysing the quantities and distribution of plastics in rivers
A key objective of the plastic project is to develop knowledge on the quantities and distribution of macro- and micro-plastics (< 5 mm) in rivers. The project team has been performing tests with its plastic sampler at different locations on the Nieuwe Maas river in the Netherlands. The sampler comprises three nets set at different water depths so the vertical distribution of plastics can be investigated in various zones of the river. Factors such as wind and current are recorded to assess their effect on the distribution of plastics.
Waste is analysed and sorted by size and material type. Macro litter is analysed at Allseas’ laboratory. For micro plastics, Allseas collaborates with the chemistry and biomedical departments of the Hogeschool Rotterdam. The results can be used later to help predict plastic waste hotspots.
River plastics removal project latest developments
Allseas has been awarded several projects to develop plastic collection systems in the Benelux:
- Plastic collection system for the Port of Antwerp, Belgium
- Plastic catcher for the Nieuwe Maas river in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- Study about plastic pollution in the Verversingskanaal in Scheveningen, the Netherlands
Background information on plastic pollution
Increased global production and poor waste management has led to a build-up of plastic litter in the world’s oceans. In the diverse marine habitats, including beaches, the sea surface, water column and seafloor, an estimated 250 million tonnes of plastic debris is present. Degradation of larger plastic items leads to the formation of abundant small micro-plastics, which are ultimately ingested by plants, fish and animals, passing durable microscopic contaminants to organisms higher up the food chain. The flow of plastics into the oceans occurs through a variety of pathways, but rivers are one of the largest contributors. Removing these “plastic soups” from vast water bodies is challenging. One solution to prevent plastic waste from building up in oceans is to catch it in the rivers before they can transport it to the oceans.
European grant LIFE awarded to back Allseas’ plastic removal efforts
Our efforts have received EU financial backing in the form of a grant under the LIFE programme, the EU’s funding instrument for environmental and climate action. Over the next three years, our “LIFE SouPLess” project aims to support existing waste management processes, and develop and deploy state-of-the-art plastic identification and recovery tools in support of the EU Water Framework Directive. In a nutshell, the LIFE SouPLess project aims to:
- Design and deploy sustainable systems to catch plastics in rivers across Europe
- Optimise the efficiency of the systems by predicting hotspots of plastic waste in rivers
- Advise on post-processing of the collected plastic
Read more about Allseas’ sustainability efforts.