Oct 6, 2022 - News

East Bay robot vacuum patrols for plastic

The Plastics Piranha

The Plastics Piranha in the water at Point San Pablo Harbor. Photo: Clean Earth Rovers

A "Roomba for the water" started roaming around Point San Pablo Harbor in the East Bay earlier this week, programmed to collect floating waste.

Details: The Plastics Piranha, an autonomous, fully electric vessel, is the brainchild of a Cincinnati-based company called Clean Earth Rovers, who say they're the first in the U.S. to deploy the idea.

  • The robot can carry up to 100 pounds of trash, and when it's done collecting, it returns to a specified home base to be emptied.

Why it matters: An estimated 13 million tons of trash enter the ocean each year, or the "equivalent of a garbage truck emptying a load of plastic rubbish into the sea every minute," according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

  • The Plastics Piranha aims to intercept debris before it gets to the sea.

What they're saying: "Our goal is to have [the robots] run continuously along as many harbors and marinas as possible," CEO Michael Arens told Axios.

What's next: The effort in Point San Pablo — the company's first official pilot — is set to run for the next three months.

  • Meanwhile, Arens said his team is "starting to have more conversations" with other harbors and marinas in the Bay Area, with the hopes of expanding the company's coverage here.
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