Ikea has deposited large-scale versions of its popular bath toy, the Smakryp, in London’s River Thames, according to AdAge.
The cartoonishly proportioned floats aren’t just cute to look at — they’re there to clean up plastic pollution.
The machines use “Orca technology” to collect trash in the water and can hold up to 44 pounds of garbage at a time. When they become full, the trash is gathered on shore and the devices can head back out to the water.
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Ikea has invited people in the area to come by to operate the machines and join in the clean-up effort.
In the weeks ahead, the company will transform the collected waste into a sculpture to display in its new Greenwich location, which is supposedly the brand’s most sustainable store yet. The location has solar panels, treats rainwater, and spearheads various recycling initiatives.
Once the new sculpture is made, Ikea will donate the Smakryp machines to the sustainability charity Hubbub, which will be able to clean up plastic in the river indefinitely, AdAge notes.
@IKEAUK is delivering a fun, educational activity for the community as they unveil two large replicas of the "Smakryp bath boat" on the Thames. These boats will be used to clear rubbish from London's waterways over the coming weeks. https://t.co/r9LF6n2YSwpic.twitter.com/S9mNz78D0H— Big Cat Agency (@BigCatAgency) February 22, 2019
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It’s unknown whether the company will expand this effort to other locations or make the plastic-cleaning machine commercially available. In recent years, growing awareness of the scale of plastic pollution has spurred people around the world to engage in plastic clean-up efforts and the Smakryp machines could prove to be a useful tool.
The new plastic-cleaning initiative coincides with efforts being made throughout the United Kingdom. The government has vowed to restrict single-use plastics, supermarkets and other stores have gotten rid of plastic bags, and scientists are researching plastic alternatives.
Since 1950, humans have created 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, more than 75% of which has been thrown away. Each year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans, harming a broad range of marine life.
The UK, in particular, has been forced to reckon with the environmental toll of plastic pollution in recent years after China prohibited the import of certain kinds of junk plastic. Previously, the UK had been sending 2.7 million tons of plastic to China annually.
Ikea’s giant bath toys are only cleaning a few dozen pounds of plastic at a time, but by engaging everyday citizens in clean-up efforts, the company could help to spur larger reforms around plastic production and consumption.