Using Outboards to Remove Microplastics from the Ocean - Power & Motoryacht

Filter removes plastics from outboard’s cooling water.

Eight million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year. Waves and sunlight break the plastic down into smaller pieces known as microplastics. These tiny bits are smaller than a grain of rice and have been found in fish and invertebrates. While organizations such as 4Oceans are successfully removing larger plastic pollution from the oceans, taking out microplastics is much more difficult, but not impossible. Suzuki came up with an innovative, simple filter that removes microplastics using an outboard engine’s cooling system. 

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Outboard engines pull water in and use the water to keep the motor cool. The device Suzuki’s engineers came up with is very simple, but also innovative in that it filters this water and collects any debris and plastic particles before the water is returned to the ocean. Since the filter is placed in the return line, it should not have any negative effect on the engines cooling. There is also a bypass should the filter become clogged. The part is incorporated into the return line, making it easy to install, you simply replace the former return hose with a new one that has the filter. 

Suzuki Marine Vice President Gus Blakely said the filter inside the collecting device is similar to a coffee filter. The filters are easy to remove and replace and according to Suzuki they will not hinder the engine’s performance in any way. The amount of debris each motor actually collects will depend on where the engine is used. Some areas harbor more microplastics than others. However, with multiple engine installations, Suzuki hopes the filters will have an immediate impact and provide a way for boaters to make a difference simply by running their boats.

Device

Tests in Japan yielded positive results and collected a variety of particles. Suzuki said they will continue to make improvements and plans to offer the new device as an optional accessory for outboards 40-hp and up beginning in 2021, with plans to make it standard equipment in the future.

Suzuki says it sees this new technology as a positive first step in a collaborative effort. As part of its commitment to reducing the amount of plastics entering our oceans Suzuki launched what it calls its Clean Ocean Project, an initiative that aims to reduce the amount of plastics the company uses in its packaging materials and business activities by approximately “2.3 tons annually.” The company also hosts beach cleanups through its dealer network around the globe. 

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