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This ocean cleanup yacht can feed on plastic trash and convert it into fuel

French ocean adventurer Yvan Bourgnon and his team of designers hope to have a working prototype ready by 2024

Franco-Swiss skipper and founder of 'The SeaCleaners' NGO, Yvan Bourgnon, poses next to a model of the 'Manta', a giant sailing boat which will collect and recycle the oceans' floating plastic waste. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Lucien Libert)

A French ocean adventurer and his team have designed a yacht which he says can scoop up plastic garbage to stop it blighting the world's oceans, and converts the same waste into fuel to help power the boat.

Yvan Bourgnon has spent his career racing sailing vessels around the globe as a competitive yachtsmen. Over the years, he said, his encounters with floating carpets of trash became more and more frequent.

That inspired his new venture: the Manta, a 56-metre (183 foot) long catamaran propelled by a combination of high-tech sails and electric motors.

Right now, it exists only on the drawing board, but Bourgnon and his team hope to turn into a working prototype that can be launched in 2024.

As the boat moves through the water, conveyor belts will scoop up waste, sort it, then feed it into a burner. That will melt the plastic, producing gas which drives a turbine, and in turn generates electricity for the boat's systems to use.

That electricity, along with solar cells and wind turbines on the boat's deck, will make the boat 70% self-sufficient in energy, according to Bourgnon.

He said that if 400 of the boats were to be made, they could clean up one third of the plastic debris in the oceans. He said even conservative estimates project that, by 2060, there will be three times more waste in the sea than now.

"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," he said.

A Reuters report from July 2020 said that the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean and killing marine life could triple in the next 20 years, unless companies and governments can drastically reduce plastic production. The report quoted a study, published in the journal Science, which was based on research produced by scientists and industry experts for The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ.

If no action is taken, the amount of plastic going into the sea every year will rise from 11 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes, leaving a cumulative 600 million tonnes swilling in the ocean by 2040, the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales, the Reuters report explained.

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