There are planned four different vessel sizes up to seaworthy garbage collection ships, which in some years, partly fully automatic and driven by modern wind and solar technologies, independently “harvest” the plastic from the waters and cast the full nets with tracking devices and buoys. These are then collected by other ships and their contents are recycled or converted into sulfur-free fuel oil.
With its concept of “marine litter cleanup”, One Earth – One Ocean wants to call on people to actively combat the pressing humanitarian problem of marine littering.
The first project in 2012 and the smallest unit of the “marine litter cleanup” was the SeeHamster, a small catamaran with a length of four meters and two meters in width, an electric drive and a fold-down net construction which collects the plastic waste from inland waters.
In 2015 the third improved generation of the SeeHamster ships came into operation. SeeHamster for the cleaning of inland waters are already in use and prove that the concept of the “marine litter cleanup” works.
In autumn 2016, the first SeeKuh was launched in Lübeck. The ship, also based on the catamaran shape, has a size of 12 x 10 meters and will clean bays, estuaries and coastal sections. Between the two hulls specially designed nets with meshes of 2.5 cm size are suspended. These collect the plastic waste up to 4 meters deep. Two tonnes of garbage can currently be collected per trip or net.
The SeeKuh has two engines, which are conventional in the prototype, but are to be powered by solar or wind power in the future. With a speed up to two knots the SeeKuh rides at a walking speed. This is not only energy-efficient, but gives larger marine animals the chance to avoid the net, while small organisms are going through the meshes.
In addition to collecting plastic waste, water analyzes on board are another important aspect. On deck, there is a small laboratory where water samples can be examined directly with an infrared spectrometer on plastic to find out what kind of plastic the SeeKuh is collecting. SeeKuh is also the first seaworthy research-, purification- and reconnaissance vessel worldwide to be licensed by DNV / GL (kind of TÜV for ships).
On the high seas, another vessel called SeeFarmer is to collect the full nets and take them to the energy ship SeeElefant. In addition, the manned SeeFarmer is also designed as a maintenance vessel for the SeeKuh fleet.
The SeeElefant is a container ship, which is converted to an energy ship and will be stationed on the high seas. On it, the plastic waste collected by the SeeKuh fleet is sorted, crushed, liquefied by heating, and thus converted into sulfur-free fuel oil.
This is stored in the tanks of the ship. For the process of plastic oiling, about 20 to 30 percent of the fuel produced is consumed, the rest can be sold directly to ships or settlements on the route. The proceed helps to finance a part of the project. According to calculations by One Earth – One Ocean e.V., two employees can collect about 200 tonnes of plastic waste a day.
PURE saturated with oil can be pressed out with the simplest means and reused many times. This causes much less waste than conventional binders. It also does not sink and pollute the sea bottom.
By the way, PURE was recently awarded the European Inventory Prize 2017 by the European Patent Office as an outstanding invention.