Collecting waste from a river in Malaysia to prevent it from reaching the sea, a solar-powered barge called “Interceptor” is the last weapon in a global battle to free the waters of the plastic world.
Garbage is poured into seas and rivers in huge quantities, contaminating vital habitats, endangering a kaleidoscope of marine life and polluting tourist places that were once virgin.
Around eight million tons of plastics enter the world’s oceans every year, from straws thrown into gutters to poorly managed wastes from rapidly growing economies, according to the American Ocean Conservancy group.
But as governments and environmental protection groups struggle against the rising tide, a Dutch non-profit group, The Ocean Cleanup, has presented a novel solution in the form of an Interceptor.
The 24-meter-long (78-foot) boat resembles a large houseboat and uses a curved barrier to trap debris floating downstream.
The garbage, mostly plastic, goes to the “mouth” of the barge, which operates autonomously and silently, from where a conveyor belt is rolled and thrown into the garbage containers.
The barge can collect up to 50 tons of waste per day.
In October, an Interceptor was stationed on the Klang River, an important heavily polluted Malaysian waterway that crosses the capital Kuala Lumpur and its surroundings.
Ocean Cleanup is working with local government company Landasan Lumayan, which began cleaning the river in 2016, and says the efforts are paying off.
“The Klang River was like a floating landfill,” said Syaiful Azmen Nordin, managing director of the Malaysian firm.
“The boats could not pass and there was a lot of plastic. Now you can see that the river is generally free of floating debris.”
Tires and stuffed animals
Ocean Cleanup expects your project to have a great impact in the fight against the global waste crisis, since rivers are one of the largest sources of plastic that flows into the seas.
According to the group, about 80 percent of the plastic waste that ends up in the sea floats in just 1,000 rivers worldwide, which one day hopes to place garbage collectors on all these waterways.
The Klang River alone sends more than 15,000 tons per year to the sea, according to a map on its website, making it one of the 50 most polluting rivers in the world.
“We know that the goal of 1,000 rivers is ambitious, but it is necessary,” said group spokesman Joost Dubois, adding that they aimed to address the problem in five years.
But the group has a way to go to change the course: so far they have built four Interceptor boats at a cost of 700,000 euros ($ 775,000) each, although they expect the price to fall as more are produced.
In addition to the barge in Malaysia, one has been stationed in Jakarta, the overpopulated capital of neighboring Indonesia, while two others will be sent to Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.
Thailand has registered to put one near Bangkok and an agreement to park a boat in Los Angeles is being negotiated.
The 120-kilometer (75-mile) Klang River barge complements seven existing log barriers placed along the canal to collect garbage.
The garbage that is taken out of the river is currently sent to a landfill, although recyclable materials have begun to be recovered.
According to Syaiful, about 50,000 tons of garbage have been taken out of the water since cleaning began four years ago.
“We have tires (collected), teddy bears, even dead animals … but in general it is plastic,” he said.
While barges can help, they will only succeed if people do their part and act responsibly by refraining from throwing away the plastic without thinking, Syaiful added.
“Some people don’t see the impact of littering. They throw the plastic in the streets and eventually the plastic will flow into the river,” he said.
“If we change our behavior, we can help our rivers (become) clean.”
Dutch inventor reveals device to remove plastic from rivers
© 2020 AFP
The solar energy barge is a key “interceptor” for plastic waste (2020, January 16)
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