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Capturing Flotsam and Jetsam In Rivers Before It Gets to the Ocean – How OceanCleanup Does It Every Day

Scott Cooper Flotsam
Editorial Credit: TheOceanCleanup

If you haven’t heard of the terms flotsam and jetsam, You’ve probably heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” at least once. You must have seen pictures of it while scrolling through your phone or heard the news anchor mention it once or twice while you skip through the television channels. If not, then here’s a brief insight into what it is. Dubbed as the Pacific Trash Vortex, this monstrous entity is located in the North Pacific Ocean and is growing by the hour.

With layers and layers of marine debris i.e. litter and non-degradable plastic waste floating on the ocean surface, this bounded area lies between North America and Japan. It is creating havoc and threatening the marine ecosystem. The sustaining force of the earth’s surface without which human life would cease to exist is slowly withering away.

However, not all hope is lost.

In 2013, Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old Dutch boy, founded Ocean Cleanup, a not-for-profit organization with the vision to help clean up the oceans. 6 years later, at 25, Boyan and the organization meticulously designed and created an apparatus that makes the job much easier and faster. It went through fine-tuning, moments of re-engineering, and multiple trials. But, after all the hard work and effort, it’s finally out there and is helping the ocean to begin breathing again.

Rick Scott J Cooper Ice
Editorial Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

 Did You Know?

  • What you see floating on the ocean’s surface is only 30% of the debris – 70% of it actually skins down to the ocean floor
  • The Great Pacific Garbage patch has a surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers – that’s the size of Texas twofold!
  • Only 1000 rivers across the globe are accountable for 80% of the marine pollution. This is why cleaning up rivers is so important

Here’s  How The Ocean Cleanup’s Devices Work

The first device is shaped like a U – where trash and garbage are collected between its two folds. Think of it as a giant, picking up leaves with its big arms or a claw machine scooping up whatever comes in its way.

However, that’s not all. Ocean Cleanup has also come up with a better and improved idea.

“The Interceptor,” as it is called, is a multihull vessel (also called a catamaran) that speeds across the rivers, directing trash in its path to a conveyor belt. It can operate in any river under any condition.

In some cases, the conveyor belt can pick up whatever is in its way. In others, a guardrail may be used to direct the garbage. After the material is collected, it is transferred into 6 dumpsters which are attached to the vessel. As it reaches its full capacity, the system sends a signal to the operator, and a towboat reaches the vessel to bring the waste to shore.

Where They’re up and Running

Two Interceptors have been deployed already.

The first was in Indonesia in the Cengkareng Drain. Here a guide rail was used to direct the trash towards the conveyor belt, and garbage bags were used to dump in the trash from these belts. After this, they were taken to shore.

The second one was in the Klang River in Malaysia. Here the conveyor belt directly deposited the plastic waste in dumpsters instead of in garbage bags.  

The Future Plan

Ocean Cleanup has big ideas and big plans for the future – to not only save the aquatic ecosystem but the environment as well. It plans to deploy prototypes in Vietnam’s delta i.e. the Mekong, as well as the Santo Domingo rive in the Dominican Republic.

Moreover, it also seeks to deploy its vessel in over 1000 rivers worldwide. Accomplishing this by the end of 2025 is the aim, especially in those rivers that are known to send the most plastic debris out into the oceans.

Speeding up the garbage collection and gathering as much of the debris possible is at the ethos of the organization – it’s not letting itself slow down even for a minute. The clock is ticking, and the window to recovery is short; there’s no time to waste here.

Do You Want to Help Save the Oceans?

You can play the part too. Start today and help your only home. Altruistic decisions and small steps today will definitely snowball into long-term achievements and keep your future generations healthier and happier. So don’t be disheartened!

Here’s what you can do

  • Switch to plastic-free products and alternatives – carry a tote bag to your next grocery trip and use a paper or metal straw. Teach your children about loving the oceans and start them young
  • Fall in love with the ocean – Humans protect what they love, so visit the ocean, lake or even the nearby pond. Observe its beauty and aim to preserve it
  • Donate and support – help organizations striving to make a difference by donating to their cause
  • Leave nothing behind – remember to pick up the trash behind you and dispose of it responsibly. Keep the 3 R’s in mind i.e. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
  • Influence others around you and stand up for the oceans – take part in beach cleanup drives near you and encourage your family and friends to come along. Be inspired by Boyan Slat himself!