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US retailer Meijer to launch beach and water cleaning drones in the Great Lakes

US Midwest retailer Meijer is launching its participation in the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup Program with the use of two innovative technologies – the BeBot and Pixie Drone, partly based on the WasteShark produced by Ranmarine – to clean up Midwestern beaches and waterways in partnership with the Council of the Great Lakes Region. 

This initiative is supporting the single largest deployment of these types of eco-friendly and remote-controlled devices across multiple states in the Great Lakes, which encompass the largest surface freshwater system in the world.

Rick Keyes, Meijer president and CEO, says: “It is a privilege to live near the Great Lakes, which inherently comes with the responsibility to protect them.

“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.”

Beginning this month, Meijer and the CGLR will lead cleanup projects at busy beaches, marinas and waterways in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in partnership with a variety of community, state and environmental NGO partners.

The retailer kicked off its efforts with a press conference at Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon earlier this week that included a live demonstration of the innovative equipment:

BeBot: An eco-friendly, remote-controlled electric (solar and battery powered) beach cleaning robot – that cleans 32,000-square-feet per hour. It rakes through the sand without altering the beach environment, and collects plastic litter and other waste – bottles, cans, food wrappers, cigarette butts – in a basket for disposal and recycling.

Pixie Drone: An eco-friendly, remote-controlled water drone – that can collect up to 200 pounds of material per use – will navigate through marinas and other waterways to collect plastic litter and other waste debris floating on the surface of the water. It will also collect other water data, such as temperature, pH, salinity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen.

Representatives from the Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute (GVSU-AWRI) will operate the equipment along the Muskegon lakeshore.

Dr Al Steinman, the Allen and Helen Hunting Research Professor at GVSU-AWRI, says: “Microplastics have become one of the most pressing issues facing our waterways, both in the Great Lakes and on a global scale; we are both excited and honored to be part of Meijer’s initiative to fund new technologies to address this problem.

“It is critical to resolve the microplastic dilemma, not only for the ecology of our local waters, but also for the economy of our coastal communities, who visit and recreate on our beaches and lakes with the expectation they are clean and pollutant-free. The BeBot and Pixie Drone will help ensure those expectations are met.”

Ken Johnson, Muskegon Mayor, says: “The City of Muskegon is thrilled to participate in the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup Program and serve as home to the BeBot and Pixie Drone, which will strengthen stewardship of our precious waterways and majestic Pere Marquette Beach.

“We’re excited to see these innovative devices in action, and our community is grateful for the collaboration of Meijer, the GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute, and the Council of the Great Lakes Region in advancing this eco-friendly initiative.”

The BeBot and Pixie Drones were funded by a $1 million donation Meijer made to the charitable arm of the CGLR in the United States – the CGLR Foundation – earlier this year.

The deployment of these devices are part of the expansion of the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup’s plastic capture and recovery effort, an initiative that started in 2020 by the CGLR and Pollution Probe.

Mark Fisher, president and CEO of CGLR, says: “The Great Lakes, which are at the heart of the bi-national Great Lakes economic region, are a globally significant natural resource.

“By partnering with companies like Meijer, which shares CGLR’s strong commitment to building the region’s future sustainability and economy today, we are able to keep our beaches and waterways clean and free of plastic litter as we work to ensure the materials we use as consumers never become waste by adopting a circular economy mindset in the region.”

Meijer is also working on numerous store-level projects that impact the Great Lakes, including one with the CGLR to install gutter bin stormwater filtration systems at select Meijer supercenters.

The gutter bins will capture and prevent trash, debris, microplastics and other harmful stormwater pollutants from flowing into nearby waterways. Each bin captures hundreds of pounds of pollution per year.

The retailer is in the midst of two additional stormwater projects to retrofit the parking lots at its Traverse City and Benton Harbor supercenters with green infrastructure and is continuing its partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes on a handful of beach cleanup efforts.

Erik Petrovskis, director of environmental compliance and sustainability at Meijer, says: “The Great Lakes are an area of immense value, and we are proud to be hands-on in the protection of these local waterways.”

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