Students pitch innovative filtration system to tackle plastic pollution in rivers and oceans

“We are in our twenties and still have our whole life ahead of us on this planet. We are also industrial designers. With the Floating Coconet we are tackling the largest environmental problem in the world: plastics in the rivers and oceans.” If their project wins, they could take home a cool US $100,000.

Students Dillon Shieh, Jafar Fernald, Alec Lange, Miyuki Nishizaki Flores and Sjors van der Meer learned about biomimicry in the Industrial Design Engineering degree programme. Sjors: “This is a new science that uses examples from nature as an inspiration to solve problems in our industrialised society. We looked at the special filter technique of the manta ray and whale shark and used this as a model for designing our filtration system.”

Floating coconut

They aren’t the first to design a filtration system. But unlike other systems, the Floating Coconet also filters plastics from deeper water. They called their system the Floating Coconet because it’s a buoy that looks a bit like a floating coconut on the water. Sjors: “To prevent large fish from getting caught in it, we are looking at using specially designed light systems. Now we still have to find a way to keep tiny fish away from the buoy. Once the device is ready, we should be able to deploy it in any polluted river.”

A place in the finals

The Floating Coconet has been making waves internationally. Sjors and his fellow students participated in the 2019 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. They finished in the top ten. In February 2020 they will compete for a place in the finals of the Ray of Hope Prize Competition. This event will take place during the Launchpad Bootcamp, in the middle of the Panamanian jungle. Here they’ll pitch their Floating Coconet and learn more about the use of biomimicry.