Glenn Rink, the CEO of AbTech, dropped by The Daily Green to demonstrate his innovative Smart Sponge technology, which he hopes will get picked up to help clean up the continuing oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico. Rink explained that Smart Sponges have been successfully cleaning oil and other contaminants out of stormwater runoff in a growing number of towns across the country. Rink had originally conceived of the product to help remediate oil spills, and hopes the latest disaster will encourage BP and regulators to take a second look at his technology.
As Popular Mechanics recently reported, Arizona-based Rink had conceived of Smart Sponge as a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill years ago, and finalized the design in 1997. The hard spongy material floats on water, and can be incorporated into booms or dropped from boats or aircraft. As you can see in this TDG original video, the sponge, binds up the oil -- permanently according to Rink. When the material is saturated, it can be burned for fuel, or disposed of as non-hazardous waste, since according to Rink regulatory agencies consider the oil to be safely locked up.
When asked what the Smart Sponge is made of, Rink said "polymer," which made us all chuckle, since here's a product made of oil that cleans up oil (of course, this partially explains why it works so well). When asked if the sponge soaks up pesticide and pharmaceutical pollution, Rink answered that it doesn't bind water-soluble compounds.
Rink has yet to see the Smart Sponge used for oil spill cleanup efforts, even though that was the original reason for his invention. He told TDG that remediation companies have thus far given him the cold shoulder, allegedly because they didn't want to spend the higher initial upfront costs for the material, yet result in fewer billable hours to oil companies and governments (since it's more efficient than current methods). Apparently, they didn't think better, faster cleanups would be good business, according to Rink.
Still, given public outrage in the Gulf, Rink is hopeful that he'll get the call to put the Smart Sponge to work. He told us tests in Gulf waters have already proven the real-world effectiveness of his technology.
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