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Meijer cleans up the Great Lakes – with robots

meijer water cleanup robot
Meijer is using robots to help clean the Great Lakes.

A Midwest discount retailer is using two remote-controlled robotic devices to assist an effort to remove plastics from the Great Lakes.

Meijer is launching its participation in the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup Program with the use of two robotic technologies – the BeBot and Pixie Drone – to clean up Midwestern beaches and waterways in partnership with the non-profit Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR).

According to the retailer, this initiative to clean up beaches and waterways in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin is supporting the single largest deployment of these types of remote-controlled ecological devices across multiple states in the Great Lakes. Starting in August 2022, Meijer will deploy the following two devices:

  • BeBot: A remote-controlled electric (solar and battery powered) beach cleaning robot that cleans 32,000-sq.-ft. per hour. It is designed to rake through the sand without altering the beach environment, and collects plastic litter and other waste, such as bottles, cans, food wrappers, and cigarette butts, in a basket for disposal and recycling.
  • Pixie Drone: A remote-controlled water drone that can collect up to 200 pounds of material per use which will navigate through marinas and other waterways to collect plastic litter and waste debris floating on the surface of the water. It will also collect other water data, such as temperature, pH, salinity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen.

"It is a privilege to live near the Great Lakes, which inherently comes with the responsibility to protect them," said Meijer president & CEO Rick Keyes said. "Contributing to the conservation of these invaluable waterways is important to the wellbeing of our ecosystems, economy, and the communities we serve. Meijer has a strong history of environmental stewardship, and we're pleased to partner with the Council of the Great Lakes Region because the impact these initiatives will make will ultimately benefit generations to come."

The BeBot and Pixie Drones were funded by a $1 million donation Meijer made to the charitable arm of the CGLR in the United States – the CGLR Foundation – earlier in 2022. Meijer is also working on store-level projects that impact the Great Lakes, including one with the CGLR to install gutter bin stormwater filtration systems at select Meijer supercenters.

The gutter bins will capture and prevent trash, debris, microplastics and other harmful stormwater pollutants from flowing into nearby waterways. Each bin captures hundreds of pounds of pollution per year. The retailer is in the midst of two additional stormwater projects to retrofit the parking lots at its Traverse City and Benton Harbor supercenters with green infrastructure, and is continuing its partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes on a handful of beach cleanup efforts.  

"The Great Lakes are an area of immense value, and we are proud to be hands-on in the protection of these local waterways," said Erik Petrovskis, director of environmental compliance and sustainability at Meijer.

Meijer invests in wind energy center

Other sustainability-focused projects at Meijer include a recent investment in a wind energy center. In July 2022, Meijer signed a renewable product purchase agreement (RPPA) with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, of which Meijer will purchase the majority of energy generated by the project.

The project, named Lacy Creek Wind Energy Center, is under construction on 60,000 acres in Texas, and is expected to be completed in late 2022. The project will use 108 wind turbines to generate renewable energy.

Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 262 supercenters and grocery stores across Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.


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