Beach Cleaning Robot
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 01 August 2021

Every year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts end up in the environment. BeachBot, or “BB” for short, can spot cigarette butts, pluck them out of the sand, and dispose of them in a safe bin.

Miles of golden sand with the waves gently caressing the shore. It's where we dream to be. But sadly dream and reality diverge when we arrive and find the beach littered - coke cans, discarded sandwich wrappers and cigarette ends, and it's the last of these that Beach Bot, from Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart, cofounders of TechTics, working with students from from Delft University of Technology is designed to combat. 



The project was motivated when the 4-year son of Bos dug in the sand and pulled out a discarded cigarette and asked what to do with it. As Bos explains:

“The filters of cigarettes are full of microplastics. It’s bad that these end up in nature.” 

As this Microsoft video explains the fibrous fragment of cigarette butts can take 14 years to disintegrate and along coastlines,  slowly poison sea turtles, birds, fish, snails and other creatures. When water touches discarded cigarette butts, the filters leach more than 30 chemicals that are “very toxic” to aquatic organisms and also are linked to cancers, asthma, obesity, autism and lower IQ in humans.

Where does Microsoft come in? The AI-based detection system uses computer vision and the BB team turned to Microsoft Trove, an app that connects AI developers with photo takers through a transparent data marketplace. Trove establishes a direct photo exchange and in this case, people can submit their photos, and TechTics directly pays contributors 25 cents per accepted image. TechTics is seeking to eventually collect 2,000 photos via Trove. and to date has obtained about 200 useful images. 

So far Beach Bot has completed one demo at Scheveningen Beach - and yes collecting 10 cigarette butts in half an hour is hardly impressive - but it's a start and we've seen that once AI gets going, it can become smarter and faster. 


More Information



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Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 August 2021 )