Canterbury inventor creates sand sifter to remove microplastics from beaches

Canterbury inventor and TikTok star Kenny Paton spends a lot of time making wacky and wonderful things but he's hoping his latest creation could have a very practical purpose - cleaning up plastic on our beaches.

On the TikTok account Paton Machines, Kenny shares videos of himself motorising everyday objects such as roller skates, wheelbarrows and tool carts.

He told RNZ's Jesse Mulligan he has always been interested in machines and how they function. 

“It wasn’t until recently that I realised that when my family would complain that I’d pull things apart and never put them back together. 

“I’d always told them that it was to fix things, but I think it was more to find out how it failed and how it worked.”

One of his earliest inventions was a motorised scooter made with a chainsaw motor. 

He also particularly enjoys his motorised pencil sharpener, which is “more of a pencil shredder than a pencil sharpener though by the time you have enough fun with it”.

“This is one of the earlier ones that I built recently. [I] had a weed eater motor and a pencil sharpener sort of fixed to the front of it and I guess artistically had to make it look like a benchtop pencil sharpener … and fire it up and feed a pencil in.”

After seeing other engineers on TikTok, Kenny decided to use the social media platform to showcase his own creations.

“[It helps] to have an audience that asks about your projects, keep you on the line to actually finish them as well, which sort of helps to have that accountability and get you a bit more motivated to get them finished.” 

One of Kenny's most popular videos is about what he reckons is his most practical invention - the motorised wheelbarrow.

“I took a motor off a moped … and bolted it to the front of the wheelbarrow and then a little dolly behind you can stand on. I think it should be good for 50 [kilometres] an hour, but I haven’t actually been game to get up to that speed yet.” 

Kenny's new motorised sand-sifter is made from a simple office rubbish bin and was inspired by a request from the Stuff website KEA Kids News.

"I thought yeah well, there’s a good fun idea. So I whipped that together with an old office rubbish bin, the ones with the mesh style, and of course, put a motor on it … [and] a belt to drive the rubbish around so it spins and sifts sand.

“That sort of gave me the idea of maybe building a bigger one as well and I thought it might be good to go down the beach and have a bit of fun with it. 

“But it wasn’t until recently, after doing a bit of looking into it, I thought well hang on, there’s a need there, to clean up the plastic that actually comes from the industrial parts of Christchurch, where I am, and maybe [with] a bit more design into it and I might be able to find something that will actually perform a task there.”

Kenny is keen to get environmentalists involved in developing his sand-sifter and will share its progress on his social media channels.

“It gives a bit more purpose to it too, not just something you build and put on the shelf and you look at.” 

 

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