Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Sea Defence Solutions

Fish-friendly barriers to combat river plastic


The tech collects micro and macro plastics, as well as wood and other debris

Spotted: As efforts to clean the global environment of plastic waste continue, researchers are beginning to focus on understanding the effects of tidal rivers and estuaries on the flow of pollution into the ocean. Initial studies indicate that plastic pollution in those tidal areas can remain in situ for extended periods, depending on local vegetation, how much waste is already in the water, and weather conditions such as wind.

UK-based Sea Defence Solutions (SEADS) is targeting that waste with its Blue Barriers. Blue Barriers are in-water collection points designed specifically for municipalities seeking to clean their waterways and reduce the flow of riverine plastic to the oceans. The patented technology allows marine life and water traffic to travel unimpeded, and the barriers collect almost all macro plastics in the water. Recent analysis shows that the barriers are effective also at removing microplastics.

“The SEADS Blue Barriers are made of recycled plastic and metal cables/chains that physically divert plastic waste up to one metre below the water surface, directing it towards a collection basin where it can be easily collected and directed towards recycling,” SEADS co-founder Mauro Nardocci told Springwise.

Independent research from the University of Modena found that the Blue Barriers collect so much plastic waste that when it is repurposed into pellets for further industrial use, the income from the recycling covers the cost of the waste management processes. The “self-funding circular solution” provides a variety of benefits, Nardocci adds, including new jobs, increased rates of recycling, and less waste.

The Blue Barriers also stop wood from flowing downstream, and SEADS is in the process of setting up partnerships to make use of the collected wood, possibly as a source of carbon-neutral fuel. The modular design of the barriers makes them moveable and usable in a variety of locations.

The barriers can be coloured to suit the local environment and seeded with native vegetation to further hide them from view. In case of severe weather and flooding, the barriers can be set to open automatically or manually in order to help manage the flow of water. Blue Barriers are currently being used in various European rivers including the Tiber and Sarno, and the company is in the process of setting up a fully circular, large-scale pilot.

Weather conditions and natural fluctuations in the environment make cleaning rivers of plastic complicated. Innovations in Springwise’s library show different ways in which this challenge is being tackled, from on-shore waste management systems to AI-powered waste interceptors.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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