After recently announcing its first success at collecting plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, The Ocean Cleanup team is widening efforts by addressing the main entry point of litter — rivers. To tackle the 1,000 rivers responsible for about 80 percent of global ocean plastic pollution, the nonprofit has deployed a new invention, the Interceptor. The Interceptor catches and collects plastic junk, preventing its flow from rivers into oceans.
“To truly rid the oceans of plastic, what we need to do is two things. One, we need to clean up the legacy pollution, the stuff that has been accumulating for decades and doesn’t go away by itself. But, two, we need to close the tap, which means preventing more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place,” shared Boyan Slat, CEO and founder of The Ocean Cleanup. “Rivers are the arteries that carry the trash from land to sea.”
Development of the Interceptor began in 2015. As the company’s first scalable solution to stop the river rush of plastic entering oceans, the device is shaped like a catamaran and houses an anchor, conveyor belt, barge and dumpsters. It operates autonomously and can extract 50,000 kilograms of trash per day before needing to be emptied.
The Interceptor is 100 percent solar-powered and operates 24/7 without noise or exhaust fumes. It is positioned where it does not interfere with vessel traffic nor harm the safety and movement of wildlife.
How does it work? The Interceptor is anchored to the riverbed at the mouth of a river flowing to the ocean. With an on-board computer connected to the internet, it continually monitors performance, energy usage and component health. Guided by the Interceptor’s barrier, plastic waste flowing downstream is directed into the device’s aperture, where a conveyor belt delivers the debris to the shuttle. The shuttle then distributes the refuse across six dumpsters that are equally filled to capacity via sensor data. When capacity is almost full, the Interceptor automatically sends a text message alert to local operators to remove the barge and empty the dumpsters. The plastic pollution will be transported to local waste management facilities, and the barge will be returned to the Interceptor for another cycle.
To date, three Interceptors are already operational in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Dominican Republic will receive the next Interceptor in the pipeline, while other countries are on the waitlist. In the United States, Los Angeles is finalizing agreements for an Interceptor of its own in the near future.
A single Interceptor is currently priced at 700,000 euros (about $777,000). As production increases, Slat has said the cost will drop over time. Of course, the benefits of removing plastic far outweigh the cost of creating the devices. Slat explained, “Deploying Interceptors is even cheaper than deploying nothing at all.”
Image via The Ocean Cleanup