Dutch Inventor Demonstrates Device to Remove Plastic from Rivers

    28 October, 2019

    A young Dutch inventor is widening his effort to clean up floating plastic from the Pacific Ocean. He has developed a floating device to trap plastic waste moving into rivers before it reaches the high seas.

    Boyan Slat was just 18 years old when he invented a system for catching waste in the ocean. He also founded an environmental group called The Ocean Cleanup. Its purpose is to develop and deploy the system.

    he Interceptor, a new garbage-collecting floating device is moored at a dock in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019.
    he Interceptor, a new garbage-collecting floating device is moored at a dock in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019.

    Last Saturday, the 25-year-old Slat announced the next step in his fight: a floating device that he calls the "Interceptor." It removes plastic out of rivers. The device is powered by energy from the sun.

    "We need to close the tap, which means preventing more plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place," Slat said. He added that rivers are "the arteries that carry the trash from land to sea."

    The Ocean Cleanup has been criticized in the past for directing its attention only on plastic waste already in the world's oceans. Experts say 8 million metric tons of waste flow into the ocean each year from rivers, creeks and seaside areas. The plastic endangers fish and other sea creatures.

    Three of the machines have already been deployed to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Slat said a fourth is going to the Dominican Republic.

    Izham Hashim, a Malaysian government official, was present at the Interceptor's launch in his country.

    Hashim told The Associated Press (AP) that he was happy with the machine. "It has been used for 1 1/2 months in the river and it's doing very well, collecting the plastic bottles and all the rubbish," he said.

    Slat said he believes 1,000 rivers are responsible for about 80% of plastic going into the world's oceans. He said he wants to try to clean them all in the next five years.

    He added, "This is not going to be easy, but imagine if we do get this done. We could truly make our oceans clean again."

    Slat used his announcement to ask for support from countries interested in cleaning up their rivers. He also wants support from businesses prepared to offer financial support and help with the operation of the devices.

    The Interceptor is designed to be secured in rivers. Its nose is shaped to deflect away larger floating objects like tree trunks. The interceptors work by guiding plastic waste into an opening in the front of the devices. The waste is then carried inside the machine where it is dropped into containers. The interceptor sends a text message to local operators that can come and empty it when it is full.

    Slat demonstrated how it worked by putting hundreds of yellow rubber ducks into the water at the launch event in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The interceptor caught nearly all of them.

    Each machine currently costs about $775,600. Slat said the cost will likely drop as production increases.

    Jan van Franeker is with the Wageningen Marine Research institute. He has been critical of The Ocean Cleanup in the past, but said the new device looks promising.

    He told the AP, "I am really happy they finally moved toward the source of the litter. The design, from what I can see, looks pretty good."

    Slat argued that the economic effect of not removing plastic from rivers is higher than the cost of buying and using the machines.

    "Deploying interceptors is even cheaper than deploying nothing at all," he noted.

    I'm Caty Weaver.

    Mike Corder reported this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    arteries – n. large roads, rivers, railroad lines, etc.

    cheaper – adj. at a lower price

    deflect v. to keep something, such as a question, from affecting or being directed at a person or thing

    littern. things that have been thrown away and that are lying on the ground in a public place; a messy pile or group of things

    sourcen. the cause of something, such as a problem