Korean researchers aim to trap marine trash at its source
Though efforts to clean up plastic waste from our oceans are well underway, it's also vital to stem the tide at a major source of pollution: rivers. Researchers in South Korea are looking to doing just that at a "living lab" facility in Gongju.
"Garbage that enters the sea is difficult to collect due to its wide spreading nature and contains impurities (salts, mud, etc.) that increase the cost of cleaning-up process, so it is necessary to intercept and collect it from rivers before it enters the sea," said Dr. Sang Hwa Jung from the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT).
In 2019, a trash interceptor was set up in the South Chungcheong Province to try and slow the increasing flow of marine debris from the rivers of the region. However, following structural damage caused by heavy rains and flooding, a redesign was necessary.
Jung and team began working on a new version designed to take river-level fluctuations into account while also allowing for easier trash collections. Experiments and prototype testing were undertaken at a 192,051 m2 (over 2 million ft2) River Experiment Center in the Gyeongsang Province ahead of construction of the new facility on the Yugu-cheon in Gongju, Chungcheong.
Data from the testing phase was used to develop an AI-based support system to analyze the composition and the amount of floating debris in the river. A monitoring system was incorporated into the design for real-time status checks, and local governments helped determine optimum collection times.
The Yugu-cheon facility was installed in May this year, and is expected to be operational – while undergoing continuous improvement – until at least 2026. Discussions with other local governments have begun, with a view to expanding the project to other rivers.