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How to fight river pollution and stop plastic waste reaching our oceans

In this blog we discuss the problem of river pollution, what it means for the environment and how we can prevent it with devices like Jellyfishbot.

Concern over the wellbeing and health of the UK’s waterways has increased over the past few years. Scenes of environmental devastation have become ever-present in the media.

From vast ‘islands’ of discarded plastic floating through our oceans and harrowing images of seabirds feeding their young packaging, to beached whales being discovered with stomachs full of plastic bags.

The photos are shocking and paint a vulgar picture of the state of the Earth. However, as emotive as these images are, it often means that the actual effect that plastic has on our oceans and rivers receives less focus; even though an estimated “80% of plastic pollution found in oceans begins its journey in inland waterways – from urban landfill and sewage sludge run-off, industrial activity, waste treatment plants and littering”.

Once this plastic is in the ocean, it decomposes very slowly, breaking into tiny pieces known as microplastics, which can enter the marine food chain and become incredibly damaging to sea life.

In terms of cleaning and maintaining rivers, large scale clean-up projects are exceedingly rare and quite hazardous undertakings. They require large teams working directly on the waterway, which is dangerous and costly work.

An amazing way to tackle the effects of pollution at the source, Jellyfishbot is a new device that can clean polluted waterways without any risk to workers. Jellyfishbot can be operated in total safety via remote-control or programmed using GPS co-ordinates to clean autonomously.

Fighting river pollution and microplastics

But what sort of further effect does this pollution have on our environment? Microplastics are not only incredibly damaging to birds and fish, but to the extremely fragile ecosystems that thrive underwater. Releasing pollutants into rivers, such as other plastic waste, chemicals, and untreated sewage introduces a large amount of nutrients and elements into these habitats. This process, known as eutrophication, can have serious consequences.

The increase in nutrients and other foreign bodies within the water often leads to the development of algal blooms, large patches of algae that thrive on the increased nitrogen and phosphorous present in the water. These patches not only cover large stretches of rivers and canals but actively prevent underwater plants that are crucial to the aquatic biosphere from photosynthesising.

This lowers oxygen levels within the water and has a colossal impact on all organisms living within it, particularly stoneflies and mayflies, who struggle to survive in waters with less oxygen. This has further implications for fish in the water. While fish often swim away from contaminated areas, they can’t escape if all of their prey has died off.

Without any risk to wildlife, Jellyfishbot is easily able to clean up the tiny, otherwise incredibly difficult to manage aspects of pollution, such as oil and microplastics. Deploying Jellyfishbot just a couple of times a week can help to vastly improve the health and bioecology of waterways.

Issues with polluted rivers, lakes, and streams aren’t just a localised issue, they span the entire country and waterway network. A survey of 13 UK rivers, conducted by Greenpeace, has found that all of them contain plastic pollution. In the first nationwide exercise of its kind, their scientists found microplastics in 28 out of 30 locations tested. The highest concentration of plastics found was in the River Mersey.

In just 30 minutes of collection, 875 pieces were captured; making the Mersey, at the time sampled, proportionately more polluted than the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Jellyfishbot: a new way to prevent river pollution.

Jellyfishbot is a hyper-effective way to rid our waterways of debris, microplastics and other harmful pollutants. It can collect any and all floating waste from a waterway, between and underneath boats, mooring ropes, and any static obstacles.

Ordinarily, organisations rely on volunteers to pick litter from the areas surrounding the water way. This approach, while useful in preventing some plastics and waste travelling into the ocean on a small scale doesn’t address the huge effect that polluted inland waterways are having on the ocean’s biosphere.

In order to ensure that we are maintaining our waterways as both areas and habitats in a safe fashion, we must consider other ways to clean them up without any risk to workers or wildlife.

It allows those who operate or maintain the waterways to clean hard to reach areas in complete safety. It even has more complex applications for those working in the marine sector; when equipped with sonar, Jellyfishbot can complete bathymetric surveys down to a depth of ten metres.

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