one green planet
one green planet

This year, the University of Surrey’s Natural Robots Contest invited the public to submit ideas for animal or plant-inspired robots that could perform tasks that would help the world. The winner of the contest was an invention named ‘Gillbert’ who is a plastic-collecting Robo-fish. Oh, and he glows in the dark!

Source: Robert Siddall/YouTube

Gillbert was designed by chemistry undergrad Eleanor Mackintosh. After a panel of experts from various British and European research institutes reviewed the submissions, Gillbert was chosen as the winner. Engineers then went to make a prototype and develop the technology, and plan for the device.

The Robo-fish swims through water by flapping a tail. Gillbert’s mouth is open to collect water and microplastics, and once the cavity is full, Gillbert will close his mouth. A very fine mesh is attached to the gill flaps so that water can pass through, but the mesh can capture plastic particles. Experts believe that further forms of the robo-fish could include onboard sensors, faster equipment, and a more powerful tail.

“Water pollution, especially plastic pollution, is a huge problem. It’s not just the ocean that suffers but rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. This makes it a problem without a one-size-fits-all solution,” Mackintosh told New Atlas. “My design was focused on having a versatility in its function. What better creature to address the issues in water bodies than one that lives in them? Fish are adapted to their environment, and gills are an incredible mechanism in nature that are specialized to filter oxygen into the bloodstream – so I adapted my design from that, with the purpose of creating a filter for microplastics instead.”

Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic annually, 78 percent of which is NOT reclaimed or recycled. Around  8.8 million tons of plastic get dumped into the oceans every year! 700 marine animals are faced with extinction due to the threat that plastic poses to them in the form of entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will have ingested plastic waste. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and if things go on business as usual, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

When it comes to clothes, every year, 100 billion new clothing items are produced, 60% of all clothing is made from plastic which either goes right to the landfill or is burned in incinerators, and over 2.2 million tons of microfiber pollution from synthetic clothing enters our oceans! So it’s important to be conscious of your fashion footprint when you think about cutting out plastic from your life. Sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue are paving the way by designing recycled and plastic-free clothes that produce no waste. They can be returned and remade into new products over and over again!

Make sure to watch out for products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives, including making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and household cleaners, using  mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

political sweatshirt climate crisis
Planet B Not Found Sweatshirt by Tiny Rescue: Climate Collection

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  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote wise, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!