A 25-year-old inventor in The Netherlands is out with a new solar-powered device, The Interceptor, designed to capture plastic waste in rivers before it makes its way to the oceans.
Boyan Slat, who developed a giant floating boom to help clear the Great Pacific Garbage Patch when he was 18, unveiled his latest creation in Rotterdam last month, the Associated Press reports. The 24-metre device, with capacity of 50 cubic metres, currently costs €700,000 (just over C$1 million) to build, but Slat said that price tag will fall if they’re produced in volume. He added that the economic impact of leaving the waste uncollected is higher than the cost of building and deploying the machines.
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“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.”
At his launch event at the Port of Rotterdam, “Slat showed off how it worked by dumping hundreds of yellow rubber ducks into the water,” AP writes. “The interceptor caught nearly all of them.”
The news agency says Slat’s organization, The Ocean Cleanup, had previously taken criticism for focusing solely on plastic pollution that was already in the world’s oceans. “Experts say eight million tonnes of plastic waste—including plastic bottles, bags, toys, and other items—flow annually into oceans from beaches, rivers, and creeks, endangering marine life in the oceans, including whales.”
One of Slat’s past critics, Jan van Franeker of the Wageningen Marine Research institute, said the new device looks promising. “I am really happy they finally moved toward the source of the litter,” he told AP. “The design, from what I can see, looks pretty good.”
So far, three of the new devices have been launched in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, and a fourth one is on its way to the Dominican Republic. “It has been used for 1½ months in the river and it’s doing very well, collecting the plastic bottles and all the rubbish,” said Izham Hashim, an executive councillor in the Malaysian state of Selangor.
Slat estimated that 80% of ocean plastics can be traced back to 1,000 rivers, and he wants to go after them all in the next five years. “This is not going to be easy, but imagine if we do get this done,” he told launch event participants. “We could truly make our oceans clean again.”
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