In Great Lakes Cleanup, It's Technology to the Rescue

Aug 18, 2023

Thought Question: If you were to create an invention to help take care of the planet, what would it be and why?

The Great Lakes of the Upper Midwest and Canada have been plagued by plastic pollution in recent years. Cleaning it all up can seem an overwhelming task. Thanks to human innovation, progress is being made. 

Experts estimate that 22 million pounds of plastic end up in the Great Lakes each year. Plastic can enter along the lengthy lake shorelines or be swept in through the rivers and streams that feed the lakes. Volunteer groups stage cleanups, but there’s simply too much to keep up with. That’s where technology comes in, according to a report in USA Today.

Here are a few of the inventions helping clean up efforts in the Great Lakes:

BeBots: Remote-controlled BeBots comb the sand of the Lakes’ beaches. They use tank-like treads to move along the sand. BeBots can dig up to four inches deep to collect junk. 

Pixie Drones: Pixie Drones skim along the Lakes’ surface, grabbing floating debris. They can hold up to 200 pounds before they need to be emptied. They can also measure water quality. 

Seabins: Seabins suck in water and trap pollutants. They works kind of like an underwater trash can. Seabins can catch large items, microplastics, or even oils.  

LittaTraps: LittaTraps snag trash before it can hit sewage systems or be washed into waterways. They are placed beneath a city’s storm drains. 

Trash Skimmer Boats: These special two-hulled catamarans pull in trash along the surface of the rivers and streams that feed the lakes. They also serve as launching points for Pixie Drones.

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Srikanth Peetha.

What do all the items included in the list have in common? (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. They are all hypothetical solutions for cleaning up the Great Lakes.
b. They are all popular tourist attractions in the Upper Midwest and Canada.
c. They are all human-made inventions designed to address plastic pollution.
d. They are all natural resources that are abundant in the Great Lakes region.
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