Controversial ‘robot trees’ on Cork streets spark debate


The installation of controversial ‘robot trees’ in Cork has sparked a lively debate.

Five high-tech CityTrees, manufactured by German company Green City Solutions and costing €350,000 for the year including maintenance, are being installed at St Patrick’s St and on the Grand Parade near the City Library to help clean pollutants from the air.

CityTrees display a sign which states: 'I’m a CityTree. I filter harmful pollutants out of the air using the superpower of moss'.

The moss acts as a filter to ‘trap’ and ‘eat’ fine dust, making it a sustainable and regenerative fine dust filter.

The trees have sparked a debate online, with one Twitter user posting a poll asking: “To improve air quality around #StPatrickstreet @corkcitycouncil should: 1) Plant real trees, 2) Enforce traffic ban or 3) install air filters.”

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast last week, the head of operations with Cork City Council, David Joyce said: “This is a new and innovative project. Cork City Council has planned to plant 1,300 trees in 2021 alone, we have planted thousands of trees over the last number of years.

"We have continued through the Covid-19 crisis with our biodiversity plans across the city and we’re planting trees but why not do both? A CityTree is a completely different entity than a normal tree. A normal tree that you plant takes in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. A CityTree takes in dust from burning fossil fuels, the moss eats the dust and cleans 80pc of dust out of the air.

"They’re complimentary to normal trees."

When asked about the expense of the project he said: “Very many people on the streets of Cork support this project. We have done extensive research into this, and we will be able to measure the impact over the next 12 months to prove the impact."

When the idea was raised in 2020, atmospheric scientist Dean Venables said that the devices are “a costly and ineffectual gimmick” and will have no meaningful impact on the city’s air quality.

Air pollution is responsible for up to 1,300 deaths in Ireland each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Source – The Irish Independent