Student invents machine to rid beaches of microplastics

Microplastics wash ashore in Kailua – Patrick Hascall

One day, WCC student Ray Aivazian III was at a sustainability club meeting when he stumbled on the idea to clean the beaches of microplastics.

Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic debris in the environment that result from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste.

They often float unseen on ocean currents. It is not until they wash on shore that they visibly pile up.

Having served as an engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Aivazian thought he could build something to filter out plastics as they are buoyant.

He created a machine that consists of a wheelbarrow with a removable tray inside where sand is placed. The wheelbarrow has two water pumps that connect to hoses.

When the pumps are turned on, water flows in. Since sand is heavy, it stays at the bottom of the tray while the plastics flow to the top of the water and then drain into the wheelbarrow.

Ray Aivazian III designed this filtering machine with readily available materials – Courtesy of

The pump then cycles water back to the tray until the sand is clean and can be returned to the beach plastic-free.

Aivazian has not patented the machine because he said, “I want my design to be an open source design, so that many others can replicate the design. I don’t want to restrict others from using it because this idea needs to be used.”

He hopes his machine can be used in classrooms to teach students ways to clean the environment and that it will inspire others to start their own missions to improve the environment.

For more information about Aivazian and his work, check out his website at

by Daven Roy Manubag-Kuloloia, Special to Ka ‘Ohana