Will robotics save our oceans?

If our oceans die, we die

Our oceans provide us with up to approximately 70% of our oxygen. It regulates our life systems. And yet, more than 80% of our oceans have plastic in them. Captain Paul Watson sees the future of our oceans as a collapsing life support system. In his talk, he argues that the planet doesn't need us to protect it: it can protect itself. When we discuss plastic in the oceans, we are discussing the protection of humanity. 

We must act now. As plastic bottle caps and grocery bags are consumed by marine wildlife, it doesn't take a doctorate to understand that the direct impact on our seafood choices means that we are routinely ingesting plastic toxins as well as absorbed organic toxins. 

plastic and oil soup

In 1995, the Smithsonian Institute released a report detailing how much oil finds its way into our oceans. Every year, 706 million gallons of oil leak into the oceans. A shocking 363 million gallons of this is attributed to oil going down the drain. One oil change can contaminate a million gallons of fresh water. In addition to this, oil runoff from land, municipal and industrial wastes also ends up in the oceans. From a city of 5 million people, road runoff could contain as much oil as one large tanker spill. The second biggest culprit is the routine maintenance of ships: 137 million gallons leaks into oceans every year.

Approximately, 165 million tonnes of plastic occupies our oceans. According to a report released by the Ellen MacArther Foundation, by 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh the number of fish. The report calls attention to our need to delve deeper into the circular economy, so that we can rethink how plastic packaging is used and reused. 

Captain Charles Moore from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In 2009, he gave a TED Talk on the devastation that plastic has had on the Pacific Ocean wildlife: hundreds of thousands of animals mistake plastic as food, or become physically entangled in rings and netting. There are parts of the ocean where there is more plastic than plankton.

Small bits of plastic concentrate persistent-organic pollution up to a million times their levels in the sea water.

Hundreds of thousands of the goose-sized (albatross) chicks are dying with stomachs full of bottle caps and other rubbish, like cigarette lighters, but mostly bottle caps
— Captain. Charles Moore

Our signature, WildeNest water bottle, will reduce your plastic impact on our oceans, our life-force.

our robotic future

Are robotics the future of cleaning up the oceans? 

Cesar Harada, founder of Protei, gave an inspiring TED Talk on how robotics are being democratised to source the best technologies needed to clean up ocean plastic and oil spills. Protei is an Open Hardware, shape-shifting, sailing robot. Open Hardware means that everyone is free to use, modify and distribute their designs. Protei only requests that innovators on Instructables credit them with their updated prototypes. Protei boats use a wind-powered solution so that it doesn't require the use of nonrenewable energy. During his engaging talk, he explains how his vision for an agile, intelligent boat can be used to sense and clean the ocean. 

In 2013, Harada joined the innovative Unreasonable At Sea, an accelerator for global innovation in social entrepreneurship, design-thinking, and education working to find solutions to the greatest challenges of our time. They visited Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, to research plastic pollution. After driving off-road and traveling across lava, the team reached the plastic beach and saw firsthand how many hundreds of tonnes of plastic confetti have accumulated. Harada noted that the scientific community fails to agree on the actual amount of plastic in our oceans and its destructive effect on marine life. To address these issues, Protei boats could carry an optical sensor that would allow the boat to collect images of plastic that could be converted into data.

For Harada and his team, Open Technology maximises their impact and transparency. Intellectual property is shared so that individuals, non-profits, companies, universities and governments can work together for the greater good without the challenges of ownership. At Protei, they have developed a business model where they replace competition with collaboration to foster an international community of innovators. 

Traditionally, business-as-usual has followed the profit-technology-people and environment trajectory, Protei is committed to prioritising the environment-people-technology-profit sequence. At WildeNest, we are dedicated to the same model.

What can we do?

At WildeNest, we are committed to reducing our plastic impact, and bringing to you the latest innovations from the STEM community that are finding solutions to the waste epidemic. This is why we have pledged to participate in Plastic Free July.

We can't all be scientists and entrepreneurs, which is why we are offering some tips on how YOU can play your important part in the plastic challenge:

  1. Line your rubbish bin with newspaper instead of plastic bags
  2. Cook at home instead of getting a takeaway 
  3. Bring reusable grocery bags, and stay away from placing hand-selected fruits and vegetables into plastic bags