Port of Brisbane – Solar Powered Automatic River Cleaner trial

Marine debris in our oceans is an increasing issue that requires serious investment. In 2021, Port of Brisbane partnered with Ocean Crusaders and other stakeholders to support an innovative rubbish clean-up project at the mouth of the Brisbane River – an identified litter ‘hotspot’.

The project sought to develop and trial a safer and more sustainable way to collect rubbish from the Brisbane River, preventing it from travelling into Moreton Bay – an area of high ecological significance. The outcome was development of the Solar Powered Automatic River Cleaner (SPARC) – a 24/7 collection device that can be used in rivers to collect debris, lift it out of the water and place it in a bin, ready for removal.

The project bought together industry, government and environmental partners who provided funding, technical and construction expertise, and in-kind support. Led by environmental organization, Ocean Crusaders, stakeholders included Port of Brisbane, IFM Investors (a Port of Brisbane shareholder), Brisbane City Council and local businesses.

The project was delivered in two stages:

  1. a litter clean-up campaign to understand litter deposition in the area and provide baseline data to support further assessments of the SPARC
  2. development and trial of the SPARC unit to capture rubbish coming down the Brisbane River.

The successful trial demonstrated the viability of the SPARC and will support its future development and on a broader scale. Key outcomes include:

  • 3 months operational at site collecting litter
  • 500 volunteer hours in design, construction and trial
  • 2,309 pieces of litter collected.

While the trial has identified opportunities to improve the unit’s design, it has proven the concept is viable and, with further development, could be deployed more broadly, removing rubbish and improving overall waterway health.