This Trawl Monitors Ocean Plastics, Built from Baby Tights
Tom Spendlove posted on June 20, 2019 |

Public Lab believes that we should all be able to perform scientific research and analyze our own data. Their work focuses on developing affordable and easy-to-create tools for citizen scientists to build databases and better understand the world. The current standard for collecting ocean data is the Manta Trawl, a thin mesh net pulled behind a research vessel that collects water samples and look for contamination or plant life. Public Lab says that Manta Trawls can cost $3500 and they wanted to develop a low cost accessible tool. Their do-it-yourself trawl is made from pink baby tights and a plastic bottle and should cost around $20-30. The group is running a Kickstarter funding campaign for their trawl kits.

BabyLegs was developed by Max Liboiron at the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist and anti-colonial lab focused on monitoring plastic pollution. The project started with the goal of checking the plastics found in sewage outlet water vs food chain waters. BabyLegs requires a pair of nylon baby tights, a waterproof container, some rope, and a hose clamp. The group recommends using a drill, scissors, a screwdriver and sandpaper for assembling a BabyLegs unit. The plastic unit is pulled through water and debris is trapped in the legs of the tights. Debris is then photographed, catalogued, and analyzed.

BabyLegs have already been used in the Arctic, Antartica, China, France, Canada, and New York City. Activity Guides for the BabyLegs help users to pull the plastic samples away from other water debris and “forensically analyzing the microplastics.” One section of the campaign page shows which bottles will work for the trawl housing and which bottle types are ill suited for the project. Because this is a sustainability project the Environmental Commitments section is very well developed, discussing how the design of the system is built with durable and reusable materials meant to minimize waste. The simplicity of the BabyLegs unit makes it a very interesting tool and project, but the community built around collecting and disseminating the data is what pushes this into the next level for me. This is a great example of using a simply designed tool as a means to make the world a better place. Public Lab’s BabyLegs page is full of operating instructions, design philosophy ideas, end use ideas, and construction ideas for variations on the do-it-yourself trawl theme. The campaign has not yet been funded and ends on July 17, 2019.



















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