Apr 10, 2024 - News

Detroit's Belle Isle Beach gets trash cleanup robot

Caption: The BeBot that will be patrolling Belle Isle Beach. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Detroit

The BeBot that will be patrolling Belle Isle Beach. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Detroit

Don't expect this robot to gain sentience and challenge the human race anytime soon — it just wants to pick up trash.

Why it matters: To help control waste buildup along Belle Isle Beach, Detroit announced a new trash removal robot, the BeBot, that will patrol starting on Earth Day, April 22.

How it works: The electric-powered, remote-controlled, beach-sifting robot can remove the usual litter, as well as smaller plastic pieces 1 cm or larger.

  • It will also collect data on how plastic pollution travels the island and river.
  • It's part of the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup campaign, looking to address about 10,000 tons of plastics that enter the lakes annually.

By the numbers: A $150,000 Clorox Company grant is funding the BeBot pilot.

  • The robot itself cost $72,705 plus a trailer for $5,300.

The big picture: Meijer, also a partner on the Belle Isle program, has donated funding since 2022 to deploy the BeBot and Pixie Drone to help clean up plastics in about 25 places along the shores of Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

  • The floating Pixie water drone collects trash and data along waterways.
  • Detroit is seeking funding to add a second BeBot and a Pixie for Belle Isle Beach.

The bottom line: These futuristic technologies are eye-catching, focusing public attention on the growing problem of plastic waste.

  • They're likely to become more common, but for now they tend to be very expensive, limiting their deployment.
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