P&D Marine Services, part of the UK-based Pontoon & Dock Company, will be demonstrating at Seawork its compact ‘Waste Rover’ robot, which can collect anything from microplastics to oil spills.

Plastic products do not break down but break up into small pieces which can be easily ingested, act as potential traps and can badly injure wildlife that come into contact with them.

“Microplastics are a hidden threat and come from a variety of sources, including larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller pieces,” says Niall Walker, Managing Director of P&D Marine Services.

”Microbeads, a type of microplastic, are minute particles of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes, which are disposed of via grey water. These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in our seas, watercourses, lakes and reservoirs, posing a threat to aquatic life.”

Using P&D’s compact, battery-powered Waste Rover, so much of this pollution can be stripped from the water that tests have shown the resulting water is clean enough to drink, Walker says.

Depending on what the operator intends to target, the robot is connected to either a very fine-gauze net that collects tiny pieces of plastic, or a boom by Pro Earth, which absorbs fuels, glues and other chemicals from the water.

The boom is made of peat, and while it absorbs chemicals and oil, it does not absorb water itself – so when the boom is lifted out of the water it only contains the chemicals. These can be extracted and disposed of just like other waste, and the boom can be used again.

The only limit to the size of the area that can be cleaned is the life of the batteries, says Walker, which are lithium and after about four hours need to be replaced with fully charged ones. 

Visit P&D Marine Services quayside at Seawork, where the Waste Rover will be in action.