BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) students will build floating waste collector prototypes for more effective cleaning of rivers.

Two teams — UBDfit and UTB’s Simpur — will turn their design of a trash skimmer boat and a floating litter trap into functioning prototypes after winning the Floating Waste Collector Conceptual Design Competition on Saturday.

UBDFIT emerged as the winner in the skimmer boat category, while Simpur bagged first place in the floating trapping mechanism category.

Held in conjunction with World Environment Day 2021, the competition aims to involve higher education institutions in developing cost-effective solutions or technology that can collect and manage waste along the Brunei River.

The team from UBD designed the ‘Litter Buster’, a semi-autonomous robot vessel integrated with a sensor system that can collect various types of waste such as floating plastics.

Hirdy Othman, a PhD student who designed the robot vessel, said an autonomous robot is an alternative way to help tackle plastic pollution in Brunei.

“This robot can facilitate swift cleaning in water areas, saving time,” he told The Scoop.

Developing a fully autonomous robot is the ultimate goal of Hirdy’s PhD research in systems engineering.

“The system should be able to learn and locate pools of floating trash. Once the coordinate is obtained, the system will mobilise automatically to do its job. The core operation here relies on artificial intelligence (AI),” he said.

An artist’s rendition of UBDFIT’s floating waste collector. Photo: Courtesy of Hirdy Othman

Hirdy added that his next step is to make the system more robust.

“This will include enhancing the control processing unit, called the ‘brain’ to hold bigger functions of AI. Once this phase has been completed, several tests [will be carried out] to rectify weaknesses,” he said.

The student said sourcing raw materials such as carbon fibre was a major challenge in building his floating waste collector model.

“[There are] a limited number of local hardware stores that can provide the desired type of materials, including electronic components such as sensors, microprocessors and batteries,” he added.

Inspired by Brunei’s national flower Simpur, the winning design from UTB incorporated two existing waste trap functions — a floating boom and sea bin.

Floating booms are used to form a barrier to intercept trash and debris, while the sea bin is a receptacle that collects litter in the water.

MoD launches nationwide cleaning campaign

Brunei joined the global community in commemorating World Environment Day on Saturday, with development minister YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar launching a nationwide cleaning campaign that will start on June 13.

The Ministry of Home Affairs will lead the land cleanup, while Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation (JASTRe) will spearhead the coastal and marine debris cleanup.

With the slogan “It Takes a Nation to Make Brunei Environment Clean”, the campaign aims to encourage all levels of society to play their part in ensuring the environment is clean, healthy and safe.

Minister of Development YB Dato Hj Suhaimi (C) at the World Environment Day event. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

YB Dato Hj Suhaimi also launched an e-book, Tree Planting Handbook, which serves as a guide for the public to support the government’s target of planting 500,000 trees by 2035 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I believe this is also one of the efforts to restore our ecosystem as planting trees not only absorbs carbon and produce oxygen, but it also [improves air quality], prevents soil erosion and beautifies our environment and country,” the minister said.

He added that this year’s World Environment Day is themed “Ecosystem Restoration”, highlighting the need to focus on reduction and adaptation to environmental damage and pollution.

This year also marks the beginning of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that runs until 2030, a call to protect and regenerate ecosystems around the world.

JASTRe has lined up a number of activities to celebrate World Environment Day, including the “Towards Achieving an Eco Nation” roadshow at the Ministry of Development from 10am to 5pm until June 6.

The roadshow aims to promote environmental awareness through initiatives from government agencies and non-governmental organisations, as well as green services and eco-friendly products.

This story was updated on June 6, 2021 to include more details on the floating waste collector design.