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New Machine Could Clean Up Oceans

A Dutch foundation devoted to fighting plastic pollution in the world's oceans unveiled a new device designed to stop it from reaching the sea in the first place, by collecting and cleaning plastic waste from major rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation is best known for its attempts to collect and clean plastic from the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch".

It has been testing a system based on similar principles, a floating barrier to collect plastic passively, for use in rivers.

This is the second step in solving the plastic pollution problem according to founder and CEO of the Ocean Cleanup, Boyan Slat.

"We need to clean up what's already in the oceans for which of course we have the Ocean Cleanup system and now we also hope to tackle the other side of the equation: preventing more plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place," Slat said.

The machine is said to be the first scalable solution to intercept plastic in rivers before it reaches the ocean. Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

After initial setbacks and adjustments to the system, Ocean Cleanup reported earlier this month that it managed to pick up plastic from the high seas for the first time.

The river version, called the Interceptor, consists of a vessel that is anchored to a riverbed while floating arms, which leave space for animals and river traffic to pass, divert waste into its collection system.

The system has already been tested on rivers in Jakarta, Indonesia and Klang, Malaysia.

Two more are planned for Can Tho in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Plastic waste is carried to the ocean by rivers. Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

Ocean Cleanup said that it is still testing the river system and will not give out numbers on plastics collected until a roll-out phase has been completed.

According to the group each device is capable of extracting thousands of kilograms of detritus per day.

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The founder and CEO of the Ocean Cleanup, Boyan Slat, told Reuters they found that one percent of rivers are responsible for 80 percent of the pollution in the world's seas.

That makes finding a solution to the problem of plastic pollution emanating from rivers "quite achievable", according to Slat.

Kilograms of plastic waste can be removed in the thousands. Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

"A few weeks ago we already announced that our ocean system is now catching plastic so by having the ocean technology as well as the Interceptor I think we now have all the tools to be able to do it," he said.

"I don't think there is any more excuse that there is plastic in the ocean. Humanity now has the tools so I think now it's really up to all of us to make sure that it happens."

Feature Image: The Ocean Cleanup