Living Lab for Plastic Interception, Detection and Monitoring in the Liesbeek River, Cape Town
In May 2021 an innovative set-up was installed in the Liesbeek River, Cape Town, to intercept and detect plastic as part of our Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) ‘Bridging the water’. The OKP project aimed to bridge the gaps between theory & practice, research & implementation, education & workplace and engineers & operators by developing knowledge transfer and cooperation amongst stakeholders.
Photo of the Virtual Living Lab in November 2022
The living lab at the Liesbeek river’s riverbanks in Cape Town was a follow-up to the Virtual Living Lab: “Redesigning the Liesbeek River” in which 30 students from 5 partner institutions of the OKP project participated. In the midst of Covid-19, the follow-up project managed to create an on-the-ground impact in which Dutch and South-African partners could collaborate. By working together in the triple helix with the South African start-up The Litterboom Project, the Dutch start-up Obscape, the University of Cape Town, the TU Delft and the City of Cape Town, a valuable learning experience and cooperation started.
The innovative project set-up combined plastic waste collection from the river through the ‘Litterbooms’ of the Litterboom Project, with data collection through Obscape’s measuring equipment for research. For almost a year, the project group collected the waste and data. The result: they learned more about the relative composition of different types of material in the intercepted waste by sampling from the Litterbooms. On top of that, an automated litter detection algorithm was developed for operational detection of litter through camera images.
The experience and contacts gained in Cape Town gives follow-up for both Litterboom and Obscape. The Litterboom Project has already installed several other booms throughout Cape Town, and this presence is expected to grow. Furthermore, Litterboom and Obscape will continue to work together at several sites throughout South Africa, combining the waste collection with data collection.
Why are the Litterbooms and research necessary? Global river systems contribute to the greatest volume of marine plastic pollution when reaching the oceans. There is an urgent need for interception solutions, as well as to understand how these rivers can be remediated from both plastic pollution and other contaminants. The Living Lab in the Liesbeek river in Cape Town offered a great opportunity to gain more knowledge on this problem and collaborate with different stakeholders.
Cameron Service and Max Radermacher from Obscape tell more about the project in the video: