Twenty-five-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat just unveiled a new floating device, the “Interceptor,” that can scoop plastic out of rivers before it reaches the ocean. At age 18, Slat dropped out of university and founded The Ocean Cleanup to put an ocean-cleaning device into action. His first invention, and this new “Interceptor,” could make a big difference in helping clean up floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean.
The Interceptor is a floating solar-powered device that scoops plastic out of rivers as it drifts past. His organization The Ocean Cleanup has been criticized for focusing too much on the trash already floating in the ocean, because according to experts, nine million tons of plastic waste flow into the ocean every year from beaches, rivers, and creeks. Slat took this criticism and ran with it, now addressing the trash flow from rivers as well as pre-existing floating waste.
Plastic trash has a huge impact on the world’s oceans. It endangers marine life, especially those already at risk: 48 pounds of plastic were found in a dead whale off the coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean in April, AP News reported. Since rivers have such a big flow into oceans, Slat’s invention could be a game-changer for stopping the plastic stream.
“We need to close the tap, which means preventing more plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place,” Slat told AP News. “Rivers are the arteries that carry the trash from land to sea.”
According to AP News, Slat believes just 1,000 rivers worldwide are responsible for more than 80% of plastic pouring into the world’s oceans. He plans to tackle them all in the next five years.
The Interceptor will be stable in rivers, with a shaped nose to redirect larger floating debris like tree trunks. It guides plastic waste into an opening in its bow, then moves the trash up a conveyor belt into the machine, which later drops the plastic into dumpsters. The Interceptor is even able to send a text message to local operators when it’s full, so they can come empty it.
Slat demonstrated the device’s power at a launch event in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, where he dumped hundreds of yellow rubber ducks into the water. The Interceptor caught almost all of them.
Three machines are already in use in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, with a fourth on its way to the Dominican Republic. They currently cost about $700,000 euros, or $775,600 USD, but Slat predicts the cost dropping in the future.
Slat wants to make clear that the economic impact of not picking plastic out of rivers is higher than the cost of the machines. “Deploying interceptors is even cheaper than deploying nothing at all,” he said.
“This is not going to be easy, but imagine if we do get this done,” Slat said at the launch. “We could truly make our oceans clean again.”