These Solar-Powered Barges Scoop Up 50 Tons of Plastic Waste Per Day

February 25, 2020 at 12:52 am




The ‘Interceptor” stops ocean plastic at its source, rivers




The teenage Dutch inventor behind the Ocean Cleanup has invented a solar-powered barge to intercept plastic pollution before it reaches the ocean.

The “Interceptor” is a floating robot the size of a large houseboat that skims plastic waste off the surface of the river as it flows downstream.

It’s capable of collecting 50 tons of plastic rubbish per day. The plastic is directed up the mouth of the barge, collected in dumpsters, then sent to recycling facilities.

The nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup, has been quietly developing the system over the last four years, while it continued to work on its main project—a device that captures plastic trash already in the ocean.

A huge chunk of ocean plastic (2 million tons a year) enters  the sea through rivers.

Around 1% of the world’s rivers are responsible for the majority of the trash entering the ocean, and most of those are in Asia, near cities with inadequate recycling infrastructure.

Ultimately, “we need to move all the way upstream and reduce consumption and production of single-use, unnecessary plastics, and we need to better collect and recycle plastics and ensure materials are getting back into the supply chain for a circular economy,” Nick Mallos of The Ocean Conservancy tells Fast Company.


In the meantime, it’s far more efficient to stem the tide of plastic pollution in the rivers rather than trying to tackle it in the middle of the ocean, he says.

Last fall, an Interceptor was put to the test in a heavily polluted Malaysian river with impressive results.

“The Klang river was like a floating landfill,” a representative of the Malaysian government told Phys.org.

“Boats could not pass through, and there was a lot of plastic. Now you can see the river is generally free from floating debris.”

On a typical day, the device extracts about 50 tons of plastic waste, depending on the currents, tides, and how much plastic is in a given river, The Ocean Cleanup estimates it could theoretically collect as much as 100 tons per day.