Tackling the microplastics on our beaches

Sand Separation Systems, the pioneering new project from Dr Richard Coulton, aiming to solve the problem of plastic on beaches by separating microplastic particles from the sand. Dr Coulton is the inventor behind Siltbuster, a system that processes polluted water on industrial and mining sites. Now turning his attention to beaches this new technology is being tested in Monmouth, Wales.

The currently technology used to clean beaches is screening, a system that removes seaweed and litter from the sand but doesn’t have screens small enough to remove plastic particles less than 10mm in size. Meaning the plastics eventually break down into micro plastics and make their way into the ocean.

Dr Coulton’s Sand Separation System is based on density rather than particle size. A combination of seawater and sand is used to create a dense media, the plastic particles then float to the top of the solution. From here they are floated off the top of the machine through to a fine screen that removes the plastic from the seawater. Clean sand is then returned to the beach.

Early tests have removed plastics as small as 0.06mm, compared to the 10mm limit that current technology allows.

If further testing is successful the machines should go into production within 18 months.

Dr Coulton: ‘All the signs suggest we’re onto something. We will certainly need some funding to take this to the next stage, but if it works then the pay-off for the planet – and the area in terms of engineering jobs and exports – will be huge.

It will be yet another example of a pioneering UK manufacturing business tackling a major global environmental problem.’