About 8.8 million tons of plastic waste goes into the world's oceans every year, equivalent to a truck full of garbage every minute. Gradually, this amount of trash can accumulate in offshore landfills and float there for decades.
The largest offshore landfill, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is located in the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and California. The landfill is estimated to contain more than 1.8 trillion pieces of floating plastic waste – that is, equally divided among everyone on Earth, each person will have 250 pieces of garbage.
Over the past 6 years, a non-profit organization called The Ocean Cleanup has developed a system of collecting passive plastic from these landfills through ocean currents. These efforts resulted in a U-shaped device, floating on the surface of the water, capable of "trapping" the plastic waste inside like a giant arm. This device has been put into operation as planned since last month.
But even that success could not stop the new plastic waste from drifting into the ocean.
To solve the problem, The Ocean Cleanup recently designed a new device called "The Interceptor". It is basically a barge that glides on the surface of a river, sucking plastic into a conveyor belt. Later rubbish will be stored in containers not yet inside.
Because most of the ocean waste comes from rivers and lakes, this barge can help solve the garbage problem before it reaches the landfill offshore.
Garbage conveyor on The Interceptor
The organization's 25-year-old founder, Boyan Slat, unveiled the new device at an event in the Netherlands on October 26.
Plastic waste in the river is put on a conveyor belt, then stored in floating waste bins.
The Ocean Cleanup estimates that 1,000 rivers – about 1% of all rivers globally – contain nearly 80% of the plastic waste that goes into the ocean. Rivers responsible for the majority of marine pollution are small rivers in urban areas.
Therefore, the organization created The Interceptor to collect plastic waste from such rivers.
This barge moves with water, so it does not need a propulsion. Plastic waste on the river surface will be pushed by the water to the conveyor belt, then it is put into 6 compartments on a separate barge floating below the main barge.
When the garbage bins are full, the system will send a message to the land operator. The operator can dispatch a boat to pull barges (and plastic waste) ashore. The Ocean Cleanup estimates that an Interceptor can remove about 110 tons of plastic waste per day.
Lights, sensors, and conveyors of this device use 100% solar energy.
From above, the barge can be seen with 6 compartments for garbage collection
The Interceptor is designed to work on almost every river, but it can be modified to suit a variety of conditions. For example, some rivers have a concentrated waste stream, so the conveyor belt may simply suck waste flowing towards barges; In other cases, a fence ring may be used to direct plastic waste to the barges mouth.
There have been two barges like this operating in Malaysia and Indonesia
Ocean Cleanup has created 4 Interceptor models and deployed two of them.
Interceptor 002 operates in Malaysia
The first sample was taken to Cengkareng Drain, a river flowing along Jakarta, Indonesia. It has a barrier ring to direct plastic waste to the conveyor belt. Instead of putting rubbish in bins, the conveyor belt will send the waste into huge garbage bags and they will then be pulled ashore.
The second sample was taken to the Klang River in Malaysia. This river is adjacent to the port of Klang – a place with a lot of plastic waste. On this barge, the conveyor belt will put plastic waste directly into the bins on the floating barge.
Ocean Cleanup is planning to deploy another sample in the Mekong River in Vietnam, and the fourth in a river in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.
By the end of 2025, The Ocean Cleanup hopes to deploy its barges in 1,000 rivers that discharge the most plastic waste to the oceans around the globe.