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Floating ‘garbage truck’ to rid ocean plastics in key rivers

The Ocean Cleanup, which has pioneered innovative technologies to clear the world’s oceans of plastic, has launched a floating system to remove plastics from polluted rivers.

Two units of the so-called Interceptor are already in operation: one in Malaysia, another in Indonesia. But many more are to follow, according to the organisation that aims to tackle the one thousand most polluting rivers, responsible for roughly 80% of the plastics entering the oceans, by the end of 2025.

‘To truly rid the oceans of plastic, we need both to clean up the legacy and close the tap, preventing more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place,’ says The Ocean Cleanup’s founder and ceo Boyan Slat. ‘By combining our Ocean Cleanup technology with the Interceptor, solutions now exists to address both sides of the equation.’

Go with the flow

The Interceptor can best be described as a floating garbage truck intercepting river plastic pollution. It uses the current of the river to trap waste plastic and is designed for 24/7 autonomous operations. It features a metre-long floating arm to direct the plastics. The barrier, which spans part of the river, does not interfere with other vessels and will not harm the safety nor impede the movement of wildlife.

Boyan Slat unveiled the Interceptor in Rotterdam last Saturday evening.

A conveyor belt brings captured materials on board. According to the inventors, the system is capable of extracting up to 100 tonnes of trash and plastics each day and a large storage capacity allows for ‘efficient’ emptying cycles, filling entire garbage trucks at once.

From Jakarta to the Mekong Delta

To date, four units have been built, one of which is currently deployed in the heavily polluted River Cengkareng in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. A second system cruises the Klang river, which runs through the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and is reputed to be one the 50 most polluting rivers worldwide. Another unit is to be installed shortly in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam, while the fourth is planned for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Thailand, LA and beyond

In addition, Thailand has signed up to deploy an Interceptor near Bangkok and further agreements are nearing completion, including one for Los Angeles. The Ocean Cleanup expects to expand its activities ‘within Jakarta and within the rest of Indonesia’, and to deploy more clean-up systems ‘throughout’ Malaysia.

What’s next?

Meanwhile, Boyan Slat and his team explore how to give second life to the plastics removed from rivers and oceans. ‘We are working on ways to recycle the materials and create new products out of them,’ Slat has confirmed to Dutch media. He expects to unveil his recycling plans in 2020.

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