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Solar-powered barge gobbles up trash in Finland's waterways

Organisers aim to clean up lakes and rivers but also educate people about the impacts of littering.

Pidä Saaristo Siistinä ry:n roskienkeruuvene Roska-Roope.
Image: Mika Moksu / Yle

A diminutive aluminum floating barge measuring five meters long by a few meters wide is Finland's newest tool in fighting litter floating on the country's inland waters.

Using solar energy, the Roska Roope (Garbage Roope) boat sucks up debris and trash floating on the surface as it roams waterways, according to preservation group Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association.

”This is our 50th anniversary gift to Finland’s waters. It's also part of an education campaign as we want to make people aware that littering is a growing problem in inland waters,” says the association's secretary general Aija Kaski.

There's a metal-filtered trough in between the barge's floats, which catches debris and litter on the water's surface.

Story continues after photo.

Roskienkeruuvene Roska-Roopen roskasiivilä.
The metal-filtered trough in between the boat's floats catches floating garbage. Image: Mika Moksu / Yle

Small garbage can become a big problem

While there has been much news about micro-plastics polluting the sea, only recently has the topic become an issue of concern regarding Finland’s inland waters.

Garbage tends to especially accumulate in waters near highly-populated areas. Despite the use of water purification systems as well as other anti-pollution techniques, small items such as cotton swabs often end up in waterways.

Though Roska-Roope isn't able to collect all of the unwanted elements in the water, part of its role is to educate the public about the effects of litter.

“For example, a yogurt container that ends up in the water will be ground into micro-plastics. Then, it ends up in fish -- and ultimately in people when they eat the fish," says Kaski.

She said people play the most important role in keeping water clean.

”The biggest impact would be made, of course, if everyone would take care of their cigarette butts and other rubbish so that no waste would get into the waters,” adds Kaski.

Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association is an environmental organisation for boaters and everyone travelling in and around Finnish waterways; it was established 50 years ago.

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