Beach Littering Survey System

Glasgow Eco Trust is delighted to be sponsoring four University of Strathclyde MEng Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students final year project designing and building a prototype of a beach cleaning robot.

The four students are Allan Smith, Christopher Rae, Marnie McKay and David McCubbin.

We recently caught up with Marnie McKay who explained a wee bit more about the project.

"We are a group of 4 MEng Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students at the University of Strathclyde carrying out our final year project. We know one of the main aims of the Glasgow Eco Trust is protecting and enhancing the environment and our project aims to do this - via engineering!"

"We love mechatronics and are determined to use our technical knowledge and engineering soft-skills to make a true difference to the world. A posing issue is that each year there are 4.5 trillion cigarette butts left on beaches (alongside plastics from litter). These are the biggest plastic contributor on beaches and harm sea life and beyond; by entering the food chain. That’s where our project comes in - we are designing and building a prototype of a beach cleaning robot."

The effects of plastics and cigarette butts accumulating on beaches and entering the oceans, affecting marine life and even entering our food chains was both shocking and devastating.

"We’re really excited to have our project sponsored by the Glasgow Eco Trust. They’re an organisation whose ethos and values perfectly link with our project. We are designing and building a prototype to help tackle one of the world’s most posing environmental issues of cigarette butts and plastics on beaches. We hope our project raises awareness of this issue and inspires others to get involved and thank the Glasgow Eco Trust in supporting us to do so. We’re looking forward to sharing our progress with their members!" 

More about the project

Currently, beach clean ups are performed using two main methods: manual labour or automated mechanical machines attached to tractors. There are associated ‘issues’ with each of these methods. Manual labour is strenuous and people often miss small litter (particularly sub-surface). Vehicles emit CO2 emissions and the machines tend to collect everything lying on the surface and sub-surface (up to 15cm). However, this includes natural materials; such as shells and rocks, which are natural barriers on the beach.  

The Beach Littering Survey System aims to design and build a prototype robotic vehicle to clean beaches with a novel approach to eliminate the associated issues with the current methods. Utilising an on-board feeder and filtration system to separate the synthetic materials from natural ones differentiates this project from current systems. In order to be ‘efficient’, a smart system will be developed to identify potential ‘hotspots’ of rubbish on beaches to optimise the beach cleaning process through data processing.

What's next?

We will be getting regular updates from the project and will be following them on social media too! Keep your eyes peeled for more updates.

Banner photo by Henriette Welz on Unsplash