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Cleaning Our Oceans Of Plastic Waste


Figures are eloquent, but not in this case. Nine million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans each year. One million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals die every year after coming into contact with this plastic waste. Four-hundred-fifty years is how much time it takes for a plastic bottle to degrade. Five countries produce over 60% of our oceans’ plastic waste.

Skipper, adventurer and ecologist Yvan Bourgnon left his boat at the port to visit us in Luxembourg and share with the land-locked country about his innovative solution to clean our oceans. And nothing less! We had the chance to sit down with him during the EBAN Winter Summit, where he took a chance at convincing investors and the country leaders to both invest in his new adventure and head down the path towards the Luxembourg pavilion.

The triggering element

From 2013 to 2015, while circumnavigating the world on a non-habitable sailing ship, Yvan was shocked to see the extent to which the ocean has been polluted with plastic compared to his first sailing trip around the world 30 years earlier. Upon his return home, Yvan felt the urgency to act against plastic pollution. “The sea is my passion. I made it my professional career. All the oceans in the world are now in danger. This is a challenge for all of us. It’s time to act,” confided Yvan Bourgnon.

In 2016 he created The Sea Cleaners association to put his experience as skipper, navigator and adventurer at the service of this cause. He started with a vision of a giant ship cleaning the seas of plastic waste: The MANTA.

A global vision

To fight the good fight, Yvan Bourgnon has surrounded himself with a team of experts and professionals, from project managers to plastic waste experts. His missions are clearly defined as well:collect ocean waste plastic in mass before it sinks or deteriorates and get absorbed by marine wildlife; educate future generations on how to protect the oceans in order to prevent posterior harm; guide waste generators away from waste miss-management by proposing viable alternatives; and promote and advocate for a circular economy. Finally, Yvan wants to collect scientific data and share it openly with global scientific community, the goal for the latter being to map where plastic waste concentrates and to follow the tidal currents and rivers to push initiatives at a local level.

The MANTA: an innovative solution

The MANTA would be the world’s first multihull ship capable of collecting plastic waste from the open sea and nearby coasts, and it would be the most effective machine available in collecting waste still in macro form. Building such a vessel would allow for the necessary mobility to move between zones of strong plastic waste concentration generated by winds and streams, as well as into zones of natural disasters.

The Manta design boasts an innovative hybrid propulsion system for a low carbon footprint ship. It is equipped with four automated DynaRig riggings on rotating masts and four electric motors for propulsion. A combination of several renewable energy technologies will power the batteries that are managed by a smart energy storage system.

Thanks to the MANTA’s hybrid propulsion system,it would be powered by the renewable energy production onboard. The hybrid system would enable large autonomy, which is necessary to move rapidly into polluted areas and collect plastic waste. For additional power, 2000m2 of solar panels would provide 200 kW of electricity production, and two vertical Darrieus-type wind turbines would provide an additional 1 MW of electricity.

In conception, the waste-efficient collection system is composed of 3 conveyor-belts designed for collecting macro-plastic waste. Once the waste is collected and brought on board, it is manually sorted on conveyor belts. The plastic waste is then compacted into 1m3bales, allowing the MANTA to store up to 250 tons of waste in the hulls, which is then brought back to plastic recycling centers.

Next steps

A technical consortium has been mobilized to take up the technological challenge of designing and building the first giant quadrimaran, a collector of plastic macro-waste. The first shipment of waste collection is expecting by 2022. By then, technical feasibility studies, technical specifications, trial lab tests, financial partnerships, shipyard selection, ship construction, technical trials and launching will be challenges to conquer. With his laser-like determination, you can have faith in Yvan Bourgnon!

Yvan Bourgnon: Skipper, Adventurer & Ecologist © Anna Katina / Silicon Luxembourg

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