The Ocean Cleanup unveiled their system to capture waste before the ocean

We often hear about Refuse, Reduce, Redesign, Reuse, Recycle… but we rarely hear about Remove. A few weeks ago, The Ocean Cleanup unveiled its latest development, The Interceptor.

The Ocean Cleanup is a Non-Profit organisation based in Netherland which aims to get rid of the ocean’s plastic. Created as a result of an inspiring TED talk, the organisation has been known for developing a system that will capture the plastic caught in the ocean gyres, and particularly, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Aside from these developments, The Ocean Cleanup team also worked on a solution to “close the tap”, meaning to capture plastic waste before it reaches the ocean.

On 26th October 2019, they unveiled their latest technology, the Interceptor. The Interceptor is a device combined with a barrier that concentrates and collects floating debris (waste) from the river. Two units have already been installed: one in Jakarta (Indonesia) and one in Malaysia. Remi Cesaro had the chance to briefly see this new system and share some observations.

The Interceptor 001 has been deployed in the Cengkareng drainage canal in Pantai Indah Kapuk, North Jakarta as a collaboration with Danone-AQUA Indonesia[1]. Its exact location is 6°06’20.7″S 106°45’03.9″E  

Satellite view of the Interceptor 001
Figure 1 - Satellite view of the Interceptor 001

The video from The Ocean Cleanup shows the principles of this system.

Video 1 – Promotion video from The Ocean Cleanup

According to The Ocean Cleanup, 1000 rivers are responsible for 80% of the plastic waste going into the ocean, and catching plastic waste there is a necessity. To achieve this goal, the Interceptor was developed with some key features:

  • Scalability: the concept and system can be replicated virtually anywhere around the world
  • Self-powered: a set of solar PV panels with batteries allow the system to operate permanently without an external power source
  • Ability to collect waste without stopping river traffic: boats can still navigate around the interceptor and its barriers
  • Automation to facilitate the control and monitoring of the device.

Despite its obvious and compelling advantages, in Zero Waste City, we want to challenge the fact that this system is not the ideal or cheapest solution in every case. For instance, in shallow waters, where there is no river traffic and where there is easy access to river banks, the interceptor is not a cost-effective solution.

In the case of the Cengkareng drainage canal in Jakarta, there is already a system, 800m upstream of the Interceptor 001, which already offers a solution to the capture of waste at a much lower cost.

Satellite view of a basic waste capture system 800 m upstream of the Interceptor 001
Figure 2 - Satellite view of a basic waste capture system 800 m upstream of the Interceptor 001

This system is a simple floating barrier crossing the full width of the river and which collects waste at its downstream end. This system is much cheaper and faster to install, cheaper and faster to maintain.

The cost of building a new Interceptor is currently 700,000 euros (~S$1M)[2] which is not cost-effective in the situation described above. However, when the capturing system must accommodate river traffic, the Interceptor technology has a definite advantage.

Beyond its application and cost, we are looking forward to seeing reports measuring the efficiency and limitations of the Interceptor in real environment. During the site visit, I noticed that a fair amount of waste was not captured by the system and continued its way towards the sea.

As a conclusion, we want to commend the great work and ambition that is being displayed by The Ocean Cleanup to remove waste from our environment. However, we want to highlight the fact that, beyond certain advantages, the Interceptor cannot be considered as a one-size-fits-all solution to capture plastic waste, and, depending on the situation, cheaper solutions are accessible.

Landing dock for the garbage bags collected from the Interceptor
Figure 3 - Landing dock for the garbage bags collected from the Interceptor.

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About Zero Waste City

Zero Waste City is a consulting business specialised in waste reduction for commercial and industrial facilities. We help companies to save money by reducing waste and to achieve Zero Waste goals. Our services include:

Our services include:

  • Waste audit (quantifying waste streams and identifying immediate cost saving opportunities)
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