PortsToronto, in partnership with RanMarine Technology, today launched a pilot program that saw two WasteShark aquadrones make their Canadian debut in the Toronto Harbour.

As part of PortsToronto’s larger Trash Trapping Program, two new WasteSharks, Ebb and Flow, will join PortsToronto’s network of Seabins in capturing floating debris and small plastic pollution from the surface of the water.

“I commend PortsToronto’s Trash Trapping Program for their commitment to removing waste from Lake Ontario,” said David Piccini, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “The new WasteShark aquadrones are an innovation that will only add to this success and build on the work the Government of Ontario has done with partners to launch the largest plastic capture initiative of its kind in the Great Lakes.”

The WasteShark aquadrone is designed to collect floating debris from aquatic environments
and operates in a similar fashion to a Roomba-like vacuum in a home. A versatile tool, the
WasteShark can operate manually by remote control and can be programmed to operate
autonomously along a prescribed route using an online dashboard. With a 180-litre capacity, the robot can collect and remove 1100-lbs of waste daily from the aquatic environment.

Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini present to help launch the new WasteShark aquadrones in Lake Ontario. (Credit: PortsToronto)

The Ebb and Flow names were chosen through a public contest and vote earlier this year. Based out of the Outer Harbour Marina, Ebb and Flow will troll problem areas for debris collection throughout the Toronto Harbour and waterfront, collecting debris and contributing to important data collection as part of PortsToronto’s research partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team and their International Trash Trap Network.

“The WasteShark aquadrone is the latest addition to our successful Trash Trapping Program, which has removed hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic pollution and debris from the Toronto Harbour and Lake Ontario since 2019,” said RJ Steenstra, president and CEO of PortsToronto.

“These aquadrones offer exciting new capability within our network of trash trapping devices in the Toronto Harbour, allowing a nimble response to floating debris that will complement the Seabins already deployed along the waterfront. We look forward to continuing this important work with program partners, in particular our longstanding research partnership with the University of Toronto Trash Team and the International Trash Trap Network that will ensure these devices contribute to global data collection and waste diversion efforts.”

Scenes from today’s launch of Ebb and Flow in the Toronto Harbour. The devices are helping to tackle plastic pollution in Lake Ontario. (Credit: PortsToronto)

The U of T Trash Team, co-founded in 2017, is a science-based community outreach
organization made up of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, researchers, local volunteers and staff all working together with a common goal to increase waste literacy in the community while reducing plastic pollution in our ecosystems. Their local projects use research to inform policy and management, and education and community outreach to increase waste literacy, engage the public and implement effective solutions. Their ultimate goal is to inspire an assortment of solutions resulting in the global reduction of waste and healthier habitats for wildlife and people.

“We are thrilled to welcome these two new WasteSharks to our waterfront!” said Dr. Chelsea Rochman, representing the U of T Trash Team. “The Seabins are a fantastic tool for removing small litter items, including microplastics, and we are excited to pair them with WasteSharks that are more geared toward larger items – such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, and single-use cups. This new data will complement the trash trap data we currently collect, contributing important information to inform upstream solutions for preventing litter from reaching our waterfront in the first place.”

This pilot was made possible through a grant initiative supported by the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of the Netherlands, which supports demonstration projects, feasibility studies, or
investment preparation projects that contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Follow along as Ebb and Flow explore the Toronto Harbour this summer and take a bite out of plastic pollution. Learn about the type, amount and sources of the debris they are capturing by following @Sharks_TO on Twitter and Instagram. Join the community and share your sightings with the hashtags #SharksTO and #WasteShark.

To view a video about the technology, click here:

Featured image credit: PortsToronto.

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