A project that aims to collect waste discarded in seas and rivers and turn it into useful materials has made it to the semi-finals of a national entrepreneurial development programme.
Conceived by Charlie Wilson from the University of Aberdeen’s Research and Innovation team, SEACLEAN aims to retrieve and recycle plastics – both afloat and submerged – by grinding them down into usable commodities for use in industry worldwide.
Charlie is one of 32 entrepreneurs to progress to the next stage of the Converge KickStart Challenge, an early-stage entrepreneurial development programme for university staff, students and recent graduates across Scotland.
Speaking about the project, Charlie said: “Both nationally and internationally, waste dumped at sea from oilfield, fishing, cruise ships and simple dumping is affecting beaches, coastlines and rivers.
“The effect is immeasurable, but SEACLEAN can make an impact by recycling all collected debris into useable plastic bricks for the construction industry, as well as cash in on the high scrap values for metal waste.
“These are simple processes that can turn unwanted commodities into useable raw materials for the construction industry.”
Charlie explained that by operating a fleet of modified vessels suitable for a range of waterborne environments, SEACLEAN would initially offer a service to local authorities and, eventually, major companies.
“Dealing firstly with inland waterways, there are many areas not accessible to local clean-up operations – but our style of small craft will access these inlets, remove and recycle the plastic waste.
“Our initial target market are local councils responsible for our rivers and coastlines. That simply takes the knowledge of the tides and will provide a quick fix to what has become a massive problem.
“Eventually we also want to target the offshore market, which offers numerous opportunities to collect and retrieve discarded oilfield equipment and metal waste.”
Charlie said that positive discussions are underway with local businesses, and that discussions had identified a clear need for such a service.
“We have the offer of potential funding, and we have the skills and equipment to take this forward,” he added.
“The market for this service is potentially colossal, but it’s only now that we are seeing the impetus required to turn this idea into something really big.”
SEACLEAN’s progression to the Converge KickStart Challenge semi-finals will see Charlie invited to take part in two days of intensive business training designed specifically for academic entrepreneurs. He will then be asked to submit a business case ahead of an awards final taking place in February, offering the chance of a £10,000 cash prize.
Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, commented: “Every year we wait for the KickStart application deadline with trepidation, not knowing how many or what type of projects will come through. However, the breadth and creativity of applications that the challenge attracts never fail to disappoint and this year is no exception.
“It’s heartening to see so many universities respond to the climate emergency by supporting many incredible ideas and innovations that have the power to change lives.”