Nikkei Asia –
The floating markets of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have a new, high-tech neighbor: a robotic boat that gobbles up plastic bottles, wrappers and other trash that could spill into the Pacific Ocean, taking aim at one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems.
The electric vessel joins a flotilla of similar craft making waves from Malaysia to Indonesia that have been built by the Ocean Cleanup nonprofit with cash from sources including British rock band Coldplay, drinks giant Coca-Cola and South Korean automaker Kia. The latter says it will use plastic recovered from the sea in its manufacturing, as well as donating electric vehicles to the organization.
The Ocean Cleanup’s semi-autonomous craft, which it calls Interceptors, use solar power and suck up garbage in waterways such as Malaysia’s Klang River and Indonesia’s Cengkareng Drain.
A long barrier funnels rubbish to the mouth of the boat, where it is shifted onto a conveyor belt. An onboard computer makes sure items are evenly distributed across six bins, with sensors indicating when these are full.
The project’s flashy tech — and glitzy backing — have generated a buzz. But, with a price tag of around half a million euros each, are the boats really an efficient weapon in the battle to clean the world’s waterways?