Innovative Italian Invents River Cleaner That Grabs Trash Using Water’s Current

An Italian firm has invented what seems to be the perfect tool for stopping plastic waste from reaching the ocean via a river.

They had to check a lot of boxes. The device had to allow for boats to pass without effort, while being able to run 24/7 with no impact on the riverine environment. The result is River Cleaning, a 100% scalable, low cost, low impact solution from a firm called Mold.

Anchored to the bed at the bottom of the river, River Cleaning is a series of buoys that spin on axels powered by the natural flow of the river. Floating in a diagonal line, their gentle spinning funnels incoming trash towards a collection point at the shore.

Passing boats need only go straight through them at a low speed, after which their anchor lines will pull them back into place.

They can be fitted to collect different kinds of waste, such as tiny particles, larger items like plastic bottles, and even oil, and efficacy studies have shown River Cleaning can collect 85% of all waste passing by them.

Most people know of the scope of plastic pollution in the ocean, but it’s not as common to know that much of this waste comes from rivers—80%, at least. Most of that 80% comes from just 100 of the world’s largest waterways.

Running through megacities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, or Shanghai, the rivers funnel waste into global ocean currents that lead trash to clump together in areas of the high seas.

An entirely self-powered solution with no environmental impact, River Cleaning became the first product of its kind to achieve the Friend of the Sea sustainability certification after demonstrating that the system preserves the aquatic environment while respecting the well-being of native species.