Damage to our beloved waterways is a growing concern for all boaters. Every minute approximately 17 tons of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean, equaling roughly 10-12 million tons of plastic per year. But for one French sailor, he's designed a boat to fight the battle before the damage can't be undone.
French ocean adventurer Yvan Bourgon has spent his career racing sailboats around the world and remains active as a competitive yachtsman. That time on the water has given him a firsthand look at the plastic strewn across the ocean. And so Bourgon has designed a sailing yacht to scoop up plastic waste and convert it to fuel.
Bourgon has designed the Manta, a 56-metre (183 foot) catamaran with a propulsion system that mixes both sail and electric power. Like a manta ray, which feeds itself by filtering sea water, the Manta propels itself by swallowing plastic waste which is transformed into usable energy to make the boat almost entirely self-sufficient.
As the boat travels a system of conveyor belts at the water's surface scoop up waste, sort it, and isolate the plastic debris. The Manta can collect up to 3 tons of waste per hour, and any organic matter collected is returned to the sea. The plastic that's recovered is broken down into pellets and sent into the vessel's 'waste to energy conversion unit.' The plastic is burned, which produces synthetic gas inside a turbine, which in turn generates power Manta's equipment including the operating plant, the cockpit, batteries, and propulsion units. By being as close to self-sustaining as possible, Bourgon predicts the boat can operate with 75% energy autonomy. Manta will be able to collect between 5000-10,000 metric tons of waste per year and process 100% of the waste collected onboard.
The Manta is only in the prototype stage for now, but based on early calculations the potential for major environmental cleanup can't be ignored. The plan is to have the first vessel launched by 2024.
By Bourgon's estimation, if 400 of the Manta design can get underway they have the capability to clean up to one third of the plastic debris in the ocean. The pressure to generate change is growing, with even conservative estimates predicting that by 2060 oceanic debris will be three times higher than the current existing crisis.
According to Bourgon in an interview with Reuters, “To fold your arms and say ‘No, we’ll do nothing, we’ll leave it, we’ll focus on dry land, we’ll leave the waste in the ocean,’ is totally irresponsible."
With the state of the world's oceans already in question, especially with evidence of rising water temperatures and massive coral reef damage triggered by plastic debris, it's hard to disagree.