The Ocean Cleanup Rolls Out New Solution to Tackle River Plastic Pollution

The Ocean Cleanup has unveiled a new solution to address the main source of ocean plastic pollution – rivers.

By deploying its technology, the Netherlands-based organization aims to tackle 1,000 of the world’s most polluting rivers, which are responsible for about 80% of ocean plastic pollution, before the end of 2025.

In Rotterdam, the organization recently presented Interceptor, a new barge under development by The Ocean Cleanup since 2015. The system is in line with the organization’s founding mission as it attacks the flow of plastic garbage at its source, the world’s vast network of rivers.

“To truly rid the oceans of plastic, we need to both clean up the legacy and close the tap, preventing more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place. Combining our ocean cleanup technology with the Interceptor, the solutions now exist to address both sides of the equation,” Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, commented.

The Interceptor is said to be the first scalable solution to intercept river plastic pollution and can be deployed around the world. It is capable of extracting 50,000 kg of trash per day – even reaching 100,000 kg per day under optimized conditions.

Four Interceptors have been built to-date — two systems are already operational in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Klang, Malaysia. A third system is to be installed in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, while the fourth is destined to be deployed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In addition to these locations, Thailand has signed up to deploy the system near Bangkok, and further agreements are nearing completion including one in California, kick-starting the scale-up.

As part of The Ocean Cleanup’s research to map the problem, it was established that 1,000 of the world’s 100,000 rivers are responsible for roughly 80 percent of the garbage entering the oceans.

The Ocean Cleanup
Interceptor in operation. Image Courtesy: The Ocean Cleanup

As explained, the Ocean Cleanup’s Interceptor is environmentally friendly and 100 percent solar powered, with onboard lithium-ion batteries that enable it to operate day and night without any noise or exhaust fumes. The system is anchored to the riverbed to utilize the natural flow of the river to catch the plastic and is designed for 24/7 autonomous operation.

The system’s floating barrier that is used to direct the garbage into the system only spans part of the river — it will not interfere with other vessels and does not harm the safety, nor impede the movement of wildlife, according to The Ocean Cleanup. An internet-connected onboard computer monitors the system’s performance, energy usage, and component health.

Earlier this month, The Ocean Cleanup announced it was successfully capturing and collecting plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with its System 001/B, a cleanup system that is currently undergoing continued performance testing at sea. The organization also revealed plans to design its next ocean cleanup system, System 002, which will be a full scale cleanup system able to both endure and retain the collected plastic for long periods of time.