Why is there a 900-pound robot on the beach in Florida? The answer may surprise you

High-tech remote-controlled machine picks up small plastic in the sand

Beach robot picks up small debris in the sand (Keep Florida Beautiful)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Spring breakers may catch a glimpse of a beach robot trudging through the sand of Brevard County’s coastline this month.

The 900-pound machine, named BeBot, was put to work Friday at Alan Shephard Park in Cocoa Beach, picking up tiny pieces of plastic and other debris that litters the sand.

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The nonprofit organization Keep Florida Beautiful says the high-tech robot was donated to the group by Surfing’s Evolution & Preservation Foundation with the goal of traveling to beaches around Florida to bring attention to litter and marine debris. Surfing’s Evolution & Preservation Foundation is primarily funded by the Endless Summer License specialty plate.

“It’s really capturing everyone’s attention out here,” said Savanna Christy, executive director of Keep Florida Beautiful. “That sparks conversation and awareness.”

Within just a few hours sifting through the sand, Christy told News 6 that BeBot had picked up cigarette butts, straws, food wrappers, bottle caps and other small plastic items.

Beach robot picks up small debris in the sand (Keep Florida Beautiful)

“The BeBot is an eco-friendly beach robot designed to not harm the environment,” Christy said. “It doesn’t dig deep enough in the sand to harm wildlife.”

Steered by a remote control and electric-powered, Christy stressed that BeBot cannot replace the work of human volunteers but can detect debris as tiny as 1 centimeter, which is often missed by the human eye.

emorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer and while thousands of people will be heading to Central Florida's coast, a small tribe of people will be working to protect Florida's water and wildlife.

News 6 has covered the constant and relentless battle that organizations and communities face to keep beaches clean. In 2019, News 6 spotlighted Nikia Rice, a marine biologist, who has dedicated her life to researching and cleaning plastic from Brevard County’s coast.

Rice told News 6 during an interview in 2019 that she has performed necropsies on about 400 dead sea turtles found along Brevard County’s beaches. She said nearly 80% of the animals had plastic trapped in their stomach. In one baby sea turtle alone, Rice said she found 166 tiny pieces of plastic.

A recent review of hundreds of academic studies found that plastic pollution at sea will continue to grow at a rapid rate. The co-author of the study stressed that getting plastic out of the water is nearly impossible and the focus should be on stopping it from entering in the first place.

Keep Florida Beautiful said BeBot will stay in Brevard County before heading to other coastal affiliates around the state.

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