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Robots deployed to clean Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon

The BeBot works like a vacuum on the beach as it collects litter and trash
Courtesy of Meijer
The BeBot works like a vacuum on the beach as it collects litter and trash

Retailer Meijer funding efforts to eliminate microplastics in the Great Lakes

In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic and litter in the Great Lakes, local grocery retailer Meijer has announced the launch of two remote controlled robots that will take on the job.

In partnership with the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup Program. Meijer is funding the use of two separate robots to cleanup Michigan’s beaches and waterways.

"It is a privilege to live near the Great Lakes, which inherently comes with the responsibility to protect them," Meijer President & CEO Rick Keyes said. "Contributing to the conservation of these invaluable waterways is important to the wellbeing of our ecosystems, economy, and the communities we serve. Meijer has a strong history of environmental stewardship, and we're pleased to partner with the CGLR because the impact these initiatives will make will ultimately benefit generations to come."

So how does it work?

Officials say, the BeBot is a remote-controlled cleaning robot that works somewhat like a vacuum on the beach. As the drone combs over the sand, the BeBot collects litter such as bottles, cans, food wrappers and cigarette butts, but importantly, the Bebot removes microplastics from the beach.

“In addition, they have a glider, that does the same thing, goes through the water, and filters out trash and microplastics as it goes along the water, and it also has water quality sensors.”

Dr. Alan Steinman is the Director of the Annis Water Resources Institute, and is leading the cleanup effort in Muskegon.

“We are doing it out at Pere Marquette Beach and we started last week,” Steinman said. “So we are collecting that waste, we are characterizing that waste, so Meijer knows what we are picking up, what types of trash we are picking up, and what it weighs.”

Steinman adds if you see his team out on the beach, stop and say hello.

“So it is very exciting, it’s obviously got a great benefit to it to clean up the pollution, but even more importantly, is the educational component associated with this, cause we will be able to tell people about the problems facing the great lakes, particularly with microplastic production, and the kind of solutions that are out there right now.”

The BeBot and water glider, known as the Pixie Drone, were funded by a $1 million donation Meijer made to the charitable arm of the Council of the Great Lakes Region earlier this year.