Wärtsilä and shipping company Grimaldi Group have unveiled a new system that uses scrubbers to tackle the amount of microplastics in the world’s oceans. The patented system filters out microplastics from open loop scrubber washwater.

According to the association Plastic Europe, 368 million tonnes of plastic were produced in 2019 worldwide, and around three per cent, or 11.4 million tonnes, of this plastic ultimately ends up in the ocean.

Wärtsilä, in partnership with the Neapolitan group, will take the microplastics filtration system, developed by Grimaldi and which traps plastic particles before the washwater is returned to the ocean, to market. The capability to filter microplastics will be an integrated feature of Wärtsilä’s future wash-water treatment system.

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76 particles/m3

The new system requires very little changes to the onboard procedure and uses the natural capabilities of an open loop scrubber to contribute to cleaning the oceans during each voyage. Currently, a 10-MW engine will require scrubbers to process approximately 450 m3 of water per hour, potentially resulting in a large amount of microplastics being captured from seawater.

According to early test results, the microplastics filtration system is efficient in capturing particles smaller than 10µm and the captured concentration by volume equals around 76 particles/m3.

Pilot completed

‘Reducing microplastics pollution in our world’s oceans is an important challenge, and we are pleased to provide a solution for the shipping industry,’ says Emanuele Grimaldi, managing director of the Grimaldi Group. ‘The idea for this innovative technology originated from recognising that open loop exhaust gas cleaning systems can draw seawater for exhaust scrubbing and simultaneously collect microplastics present in the oceans as part of their normal operation.’

He adds: ‘We have already completed pilot testing of this system on board one of our vessels deployed between Civitavecchia and Barcelona. The results are promising, with 64,680 microplastic particles collected on a single voyage between these two ports. We are glad that Wärtsilä also recognises the potential of this system, and we look forward to further collaboration to tackle microplastics in our oceans.’

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