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EU collaboration to activate wave of change on marine plastic pollution

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

The InNoPlastic EU project will test three different technologies to help remove multiple types of marine plastic pollution in varying environments.

A wave of change on marine plastic litter

A new EU collaboration has ambitions to activate a “wave of change and progress with a solution to the global problem of marine plastic litter”.

Called InNoPlastic, the EU H2020 research and innovation project consortium consists of 17 partners from 10 different countries, including a range of government bodies, NGOs, technology, and service providers.

The collaboraiton will test-drive three different technologies targeting the removal of multiple types of marine plastic pollution in varying environments.

They include industrial sites in the Netherlands to tourist beaches and natural areas in Krk (Croatia), Venice (Italy), Sint Maarten (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), and the Thames estuary in the United Kingdom.

The aim is to remove 90 per cent of litter from these sites, with collected plastic recycled back into new products.

Three clean-up technologies

The first solution targets micro and nano plastic that affect the marine environment. A combination of ultra-sound, flocculants, and a drum screen system will be used to funnel water from large-scale industrial cooling water systems to agglomerate and filter out the harmful micro and nano-plastics of the water.

Wim van der Stricht, CTO – carbon circularity, at project partner ArcelorMittal, said: “The collected plastics can be recycled through our steel manufacturing process. This fits nicely in our carbon circularity strategy where plastics will replace our fossil fuels and produce a syngas suitable for the chemical industry to produce new plastics.”

“The autonomous litter hunting robot will patrol beaches to identify, monitor and pick the plastic litter.”

The second clean up technology is the autonomous litter hunting robot that will patrol beaches together with human help or alone in hard-to-reach locations.


Called SEEKer, the robot will use machine learning intelligence to identify, monitor and, of course, also pick the plastic litter as it goes along.

The third solution is the Empower social app, which incentivises and rewards local volunteers and tourists to pick and track litter in community clean-ups, for example, by offering a discount on local attractions such as restaurants or fitness gyms.

The app will collect information to provide essential knowledge about the types of pollution, its location, condition and how the collected litter can be recycled.

Engaging citizens on marine litter

In an interview with Euronews, Davide Poletto, director of Venice Lagoon Plastic Free, stressed the importance to engage citizens in the fight against marine litter.

"I think that one of the most important things is to get people closer to the problem of marine litter, of how we treat our environment, rebuilding a bond that's been somehow cut off in our modern civilisation between us and our environment,” he said. “This is the key to make bigger changes — much bigger than cleaning up a little piece of the lagoon."

“We know that we can’t solve the plastic waste issue alone.”

Cees Van Houwelingen, head regulatory at project partner, Dow, said: “We know that we can’t solve the plastic waste issue alone. We are all partners in this cause to end plastic waste in the environment.”

He said there are two ways the organisation will contribute to the project. “Firstly, our cooling water systems can potentially act as filters to take out the micro-plastics coming from the river Scheldt.”

Secondly, he added that they would identify a separate EU H2020 project to find out which viable recycling routes are possible.

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