Innovation That Matters

| Photo source KICT

AI-powered interceptors for river plastic


Could these floating blockades combat harmful marine pollution?

Spotted: The Earth’s waterways are riddled with human-created waste, whether that’s drinks cans and plastic bags or old fishing nets and abandoned boats. As well as interfering with boat navigation across oceans and rivers, this debris presents a serious threat to both marine and human health. 

Most debris in the ocean enters via smaller waterways, which is why researchers at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) are focusing their efforts on river debris, preventing the waste from entering the ocean where it becomes much harder to locate and remove. To reduce this harmful waste, the team has developed a technology for reducing floating waste in rivers. 

After recognising the substantial amount of marine debris originating from South Korean rivers, the team of KICT researchers were motivated to develop more effective preventative solutions. Back in 2019, a floating waste interceptor was installed in the South Chungcheong Province to collect debris, but this soon became damaged by heavy rain and water level fluctuations. To create a more resilient technology, Dr. Sang Hwa Jung and his team of other KICT researchers redesigned the interceptor so it could withstand river fluctuations. 

At the River Experiment Center in the Gyeongsang Province, Jung and the team were able to test out the new design, and the findings enabled them to also develop an artificial intelligence (AI) system that automatically recognises the type and quantity of waste and predicts an optimal collection timeline. 

In May 2023, a new interceptor facility was opened in Gongju, Chungnam. The site is expected to be operational until 2026, with the team continuously making improvements to the system as they go. Jung and his team are also in talks with other local governments to install the technology in additional rivers.  

As the oceans continue to be littered with waste, Springwise has spotted many devices looking to rid rubbish from our waters. A novel biofilter stops microplastics from entering the ocean, while a jellyfish-like robot could clean the seafloor.

Written By: Anam Alam and Matilda Cox




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