A new plastic gobbling invention is taking a ‘bite’ out of marine pollution and making a difference in the global fight to clean oceans and waterways. Inspired by nature and created to preserve nature, the WasteShark’s design and purpose was modeled after the slow-moving, filter-feeding whale shark, one of nature’s most efficient reapers of marine biomass.
The WasteShark is an invention of Richard Hardiman, CEO of RanMarine Technology, a drone technology company based in the Netherlands. As Mr. Hardiman puts it, he invented a machine. In doing so, as his young son quite profoundly said, he created a life for his family out of his head. Mr. Hardiman took an idea that popped out of thin air into his self-described noisy mind, stepped away from his extreme dedication to procrastination, and just did it. He took action; he executed on the idea. You see, many people have great ideas, but what separates a successful idea from a passing brilliant thought that never goes anywhere is the execution.
As a child growing up in the Florida Keys I can remember swimming in our canal and discovering the wildlife surrounding me. Triggerfish, seahorses, needlefish, horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, barracuda, you name it. In the canal walls, we would spot lobster and an occasional octopus. It was a great introduction to ocean life.
When we moved away, I still had those wonderful memories in my head, and I had definitely gotten “sand in my shoes”. When we traveled back to the Keys to sell our house in the early 1990s, I went swimming in the canal once again, but it was a distinctly different experience. The water was murky and there was no life to be found, besides a few sad looking minnows. Gone were all the fascinating creatures. All of this happened in the span of less than ten years.
These days, I have found my way back to the Florida Keys. I spend my free time introducing my children to the wonders of the ocean. We are out on the water whenever humanly possible. Our favorite thing to do is to kayak out to a little island and check out all the wildlife surrounding us. But, though it is beautiful and full of life, we always find plenty of plastic to bring home with us. It’s safe to say we are full-blown plastic patrol ocean guardians.
In just this small slice of the ocean where we live, we try to make whatever difference we can in the quality of the waters surrounding us. If it’s plastic, or any type of garbage, it is coming home with us to be properly disposed of. But we are just one family, and every year, eight million tons of toxic plastic leak into our oceans. What if there was a product that could remove the plastic on a much larger scale? Well, there is!
In this time of the 2021 Climate Change Conference (COP26), when global elites jet-set to Europe and attend their soirees and talk of making change in the world, it is just that – only talk. One company is bypassing the private jets and Champagne galas and actually doing something about the plastic in our oceans and waterways. Richard Hardiman, founder and CEO of RanMarine Technology, a Netherlands based USV (Unmanned Surface Vessels) company, has developed a water-borne drone that harvests plastic waste from the world’s ports, harbors, rivers and marinas in an effort to reduce the effects of plastic pollution on the Earth’s oceans. It is called the WasteShark.
The WasteShark has been exported globally to the USA, UAE, UK, Australia and South Africa. Added to the WasteShark’s ability to collect waste, RanMarine has now also pioneered the collection of live data from water-borne drones, to measure water health quality. With 180 liters (47.5 gallons) of capacity and an eight hour runtime, this hardworking robot can remove 500kg (1100lb) of waste a day. The WasteShark is also easy to use and deploy. Using 4G onboard communications and an easy setup process, launching multiple drones has been made deliberately simple and easy for customers. Additionally, the drone uses advanced battery technology ensuring emission-free operation on the water, and not adding to the water’s pollution. This makes the WasteShark one of the solutions leading the way in the fight against plastic.
The WasteShark can work both manually, operated with a remote, and fully autonomously. The autonomous WasteShark can detect when its battery is low and when its basket is full. It will then return to its docking station, or SharkPod. The WasteShark is equipped for collision avoidance, and is perfect for canals, ports and along waterlines where plastics inevitably meet the ocean. Currently there is one size available, and is not made for open-ocean navigation, but RanMarine is working on a larger WasteShark that can be used for this purpose.
RanMarine will be receiving the innovation award for the WasteShark and will also introduce the SharkPod, the world’s first autonomous floating docking station for waste-clearing drones, at CES 2022 in Las Vegas January 5-8. With the ability to deploy, dock and charge up to five WasteShark drones at any time, this latest tool in pollution-fighting technology will enable ports, harbors and cities to operate a twenty-four hour autonomous solution to remove floating waste from the water. With the ability to remove one ton of waste per drone per day, RanMarine expects the SharkPod to be capable of removing up to one hundred tons or more of debris and waste per month. With the prototype unit that will be deployed in 2022, drones will be able to dock, discharge waste, recharge and redeploy on a continuous twenty-four hour basis, all from a centrally controlled online environment.
I now have a batch of professionally manufactured BurpMitts™ ready to purchase! They are currently available through this website, but I will be expanding to other markets in the future.
During this process I know I made quite a few mistakes and at times did things backwards. It was a bit of a one-step-forward-two-steps-back story dotted with constant roadblocks and obstacles. But I have learned a lot, and now I know the process of how to manufacture my very own physical product. I’ve written and published books, but this is a whole new level of excitement – taking an idea for an invention through to its creation is quite an experience and takes loads of patience and persistence. I did it!
I hope my product will help many parents get through those exhausting early baby days. Being a parent is the hardest work there is.
I now have a wonderful new manufacturer and have had a few samples made in order to finally decide which fabric I will ultimately use for the BurpMitt™. I chose an organic cotton, super absorbent fabric in a natural color. The fabric is also very soft, so it will be gentle on a baby’s skin. I have had the fabric sent to the manufacturer, had new labels made, and now we are officially in production!
Today has been a very discouraging day. My contact at the manufacturer has informed me that they cannot go forward with my project (and this time the email WAS meant for me). They have changed their production schedules to only high volume production lots of 1000 pieces or more. As the little guy, just starting out, I am only looking to produce a small batch at this point in time. My contact has been nice enough to refer me to another manufacturer who might fit my needs better. I am supposed to contact her later this week after he meets with her.
Once again, now I know why most products are Made in China.
I have received my latest prototype with comments from the manufacturer that my pattern is wrong. They also informed me that they cannot use one of the fabrics that I have chosen (my favorite one) because it is too stiff and their machines cannot do tight curves. This is another pattern issue. So I have created a new pattern. This one is much more rounded and I think it will work.
During all of my painful waiting around this summer (seems like all I have done this year is wait around), I have also created another product. It is kind of like a companion product, and will hopefully be much easier to manufacture.
By the way, the missing fabric showed up in the package the manufacturer sent me, so now I have more fabric than I could possibly need.
All I have to do now is package everything up and send it to the manufacturer and this show will be on the road again!
I have chosen two fabrics and am having two prototypes made. However, it wouldn’t be my story without some extra obstacles, would it?
The first batch of fabric that I had sent to the manufacturer disappeared. We don’t even know where it went, it simple vanished. I am still trying to get a refund. Hoping, once again, to speed up the process, I have ordered another batch and had that also sent directly to the manufacturer. I have watched the tracking information on both batches like a hawk, and noticed that the address on the fabric has been changed each time from what I had submitted. The latest address isn’t even an address I have used before. I contacted the manufacturer to confirm his address and his response was “Yes, that is the correct address, but where did you get Suite __ from?”
Explaining that I did not put that address on the package, I knew things did not bode well for my latest attempt to have fabric delivered to my contact.
I continued to watch the tracking in frustration as the package was marked as undeliverable because there was nowhere secure to leave the package. So a note was left (at the incorrect address) for the person (who doesn’t work at that location) to pick the package up at the local post office.
I couldn’t make this stuff up.
I tracked down the phone number of the most likely post office location in the area and called them. A very helpful supervisor located my package and said that he could not do anything for me over the phone. He explained that if no one came to pick the package up, it would have to be returned to the sender. I explained my predicament and the fact that the fabric company just happens to be on vacation for a few weeks, as of two days prior. The whole thing would be funny if it was not so maddening. He must have taken pity on my plight because he said he knew the location and that he could go by on his way home and hand deliver the package.
A helpful postal employee? They DO exist!
A day or two later I had confirmation that my manufacturer had the package of fabric and that we were once again on track to make my prototypes.