Some of the dirtiest, plastic-polluted waters lie at the heart of major cities, in ports, marinas, and where wastewater enters the environment. They are hard to keep clean because of constant activity that adds new waste to waterways. The work is wet, cold, and dirty, which makes port and marina cleanups an ideal job for robots. Meet Michael Arens, co-founder and CEO of Clean Earth Rovers, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based startup that makes two robotic devices for cleaning and monitoring coastal waters. Media attention is focused on the seven garbage patch gyres in our oceans, but ocean plastic and algal blooms can be stopped close to shore with robotics technology and an investment in preventing pollution and cleaning up oil and nitrogen from farmland and industry.

Michael Arens, co-founder and CEO of Clean Earth Rovers
Michael Arens, co-founder and CEO of Clean Earth Rovers, is our guest on Sustainability in Your Ear.

Michael explains the devices — the Rover that can collect up to 100 pounds of waste during an 8-hour shift and the DataPod (seen above), a water monitoring buoy that sends data to a mobile app. He also discusses how the company started, its WeFunder campaign, and where the first orders for Rovers and DataPods will be deployed. You can learn more about Clean Earth Rovers at

Originally aired Mar 20, 2023

By Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch is the publisher at and Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Intentional Futures, an insight-to-impact consultancy in Seattle. A veteran tech journalist, Mitch is passionate about helping people understand sustainability and the impact of their decisions on the planet.