Why focus on small litter?
We decided to focus on small waste, including cigarette filters but also various small plastics, because that is what remains with the current cleaning facilities. After beach days, tractors, so-called beach cleaners, drive on the beach, but they only take the bulky waste with them because the shells have to remain.
Why special attention for butts? And not, for example, plastic or tin?
If a cigarette butt ends up in the sea during tidal changes, one butt is enough to pollute hundreds of liters of water. The cigarette filters do not decay and decompose into microplastics. The filters not only contain plastic, but also a cocktail of toxic substances: arsenic (rat poison!), Lead, nicotine and pesticides. If the discarded filter breaks up, those chemicals seep into the ground or water and sooner or later also enter our food system.
What will you test?
The robot still has a lot to learn, but is already able to drive around, detect cigarette butts and remove those mechanically. We need to make the robot more robust and will conduct various experiments to learn how we can improve the hardware and software. Project.BB is mainly intended to create more awareness about litter. The robot serves as a demonstrator and firestarter to start a discussion about the litter issue and the need for a robotic solution. With Project.BB we want to involve people and interact through gamification. Together with them we want to train the detection algorithm and make this process fully transparent so we can all learn how this works.
When can we see the robot on the beach?
Do not immediately expect miracles, the robot is still very slow in this phase and is still far from efficient. We are working hard on this in the workshop at RoboHouse in Delft. We plan to give a demo on the beach during the year, perhaps this summer, and we hope to take the robot out on the beach a few times to learn what is not going well yet.
Is this for the longer term?
Rather not. It is not our ambition that in the long term a lot of robots will drive on the beach. Above all, we hope that the robot makes people think about how they can help keep the beach clean and also make them aware of the problem of litter, so that they decide to clean up their mess themselves.