A young Dutch inventor is widening his effort to clean up floating plastic from the Pacific Ocean by moving into rivers, too, using a new floating device to catch garbage before it reaches the seas.
The 25-year-old university dropout Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup to develop and deploy a system he invented when he was 18 that catches plastic waste floating in the ocean.
On Saturday he unveiled the next step in his fight: A floating solar-powered device that he calls the “Interceptor” that scoops plastic out of rivers as it drifts past.
“We need to close the tap, which means preventing more plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place,” he said, calling rivers “the arteries that carry the trash from land to sea.”
Three of the machines have already been deployed to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam—and a fourth is heading to the Dominican Republic, he said.
Izham Hashim from the government of Selangor state in Malaysia was present at the launch and said he was happy with the machine.
“It has been used for 1 1/2 months in the river and it’s doing very well, collecting the plastic bottles and all the rubbish,” he said.
Slat said he believes 1,000 rivers are responsible for some 80% of plastic pouring into the world’s oceans and he wants to tackle them all in the next five years.
The vessel is designed to be moored in rivers and has a shaped nose to deflect away larger floating debris like tree trunks. The interceptors work by guiding plastic waste into an opening in its bow, a conveyor belt then carries the trash into the guts of the machine where it is dropped into dumpsters. The interceptor sends a text message to local operators that can come and empty it when it’s full.
Slat showed off how it worked by dumping hundreds of yellow rubber ducks into the water at the launch event in Rotterdam’s port. The interceptor caught nearly all of them.
The machines currently cost about 700,000 euros ($775,600), but Slat said the cost will likely drop as production increases.