Innovation That Matters

The machine sifts the top layer of sand through a screen, capturing anything larger than a square centimetre | Photo source 4ocean

Automated beach cleaner finds hidden plastic waste


A company has devised a circular model for removing plastic from beaches, using an automated cleaner along with human effort


Become a member today and get early access to the ideas transforming our world from just £39 per month*

Exclusive member benefits:

  • Access to over 13,000 innovations
  • Monthly horizon scanning reports
  • Exclusive feature articles

Already a member? Sign in here

Spotted: Many of us have already been helping to clean up our beaches – collecting rubbish that others have left behind. But while it is easy enough to find the plastic bottles and sandwich wrappers that are buried in the sand, it is much harder to find the many tiny pieces of plastic that are left behind as the larger items break down. Now, ocean clean-up company 4ocean has developed a robotic cleaner designed especially for beaches.

The company describes the BeBot as made for areas that “have relatively clean beaches but large amounts of microplastics.” It runs on batteries and uses solar panels for power, making it quiet and relatively unobtrusive. The machine sifts the top layer of sand through a screen, capturing anything larger than a square centimetre. It can cover an area about three-fifths the size of a football field each hour. 

One downside is that the BeBot also picks up non-rubbish, such as seashells and small stones, so a human is still needed to sort through the contents and return items that belong on the beach to the sand. Even so, the BeBot is still faster than sifting the beach manually. The BeBot was manufactured by Poralu Marine and is being tested near 4ocean’s Florida base, as well as in Hawai’i. 

4ocean, which organises beach clean-ups around the world, will still use humans to pick up larger objects, but it hopes the BeBot will provide more efficient removal of small plastics. The company also hopes that the machine will help raise awareness of the problem. 4ocean co-founder and CEO Alex Schulze points out that, “This machine is by no means a solution for the ocean plastic crisis. … we hope to use it as a tool to drive awareness so that people live a more sustainable lifestyle and cut down on the amount of single-use plastic that they’re consuming.” 

4ocean not only cleans beaches, but they also use the plastic they collect to create new items, which are sold to raise money for beach clean-up in a circular system. And they are not the only ones working to remove plastics from the ocean and beaches. Springwise has seen a number of innovative ideas for tackling this issue, from using mussels to filter plastics out of the water to the development of self-degrading plastics

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Explore more: Sustainability Innovations | Architecture & Design Innovations



Download PDF

Springwise Services:
Our expertise in spotting the latest innovations is the best resource to empower your team’s future planning.

Find out More