Automatic river cleaner “Geoff” lands on the Yarra

David Schout

Next time you’re walking along the Yarra River, look out for Geoff.

Not a middle-aged man on his morning stroll, “Geoff” is, in fact, an innovative new waterway cleaner that has just arrived on the busiest stretch of the river.

The hydro- and solar-powered cleaner will be moored on the river near the Melbourne Aquarium for the next six months, looking to collect as much floating rubbish as possible around Docklands, Southbank and the CBD.

Designed by Queensland foundation Ocean Crusaders, Geoff first captures debris via two floating boom arms which guides rubbish towards a conveyer belt powered by a traditional water wheel.

When the current is low, solar panels help power the wheel.

Once on the conveyor belt, rubbish is moved and dropped into a large rear skip for removal, with cameras — also solar-powered — monitoring the operation to inform park rangers when the bin is full.

“The water wheel means that as the river runs faster, the conveyor will also run faster and collect debris quicker,” Parks Victoria District Manager Sarah Eggleton explained.

“Geoff is an innovative new system that we’re hoping will increase the amount of rubbish we can take out of the river, particularly in places where our litter traps can’t be used.”

Parks Victoria operates 20 litter traps along the Yarra (also referred to by its traditional name “Birrarung”) and Maribyrnong Rivers, with Geoff the latest addition.

In 2021 the traps collected more than 145 cubic metres of rubbish - the equivalent of around 900 bathtubs. 

Yarra Riverkeeper Charlotte Sterrett said she would love to see similar innovations employed on other rubbish-heavy waterways.

“We love Geoff. He not only helps with cleaning up thousands of kilos of rubbish along the Yarra, Birrarung, but he is also a visual reminder to everyone that litter and pollution are a massive problem for Melbourne’s waterways,” she told Docklands News.


Having Geoff around to collect litter close to the mouth of the river is only one part of the solution to our litter problem, however. We need to stop litter at its source, including the billions of pieces of microplastics that enter our waterways each year.


“Years of research by environmental groups such as the Yarra Riverkeeper Association and the Port Phillip Bay Ecocentre have found that litter pollution is on the rise despite many efforts to curb it. This requires better legislation, better management practices and tougher enforcement. Litter is everyone’s business – this includes businesses, councils, governments, and communities. It’s time to stop trashing our environment.” •


Caption: “Geoff” the new automatic river cleaner.

Join Our Facebook Group