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Ocean cleanup group deploys barges to capture plastic in rivers

High-tech barges collect plastic from rivers
Nonprofit deploys high-tech barges to collect plastic from rivers 02:10

Interceptor 007 is a not-so-secret agent of trash collection at the mouth of a Los Angeles waterway. It's one of several barges belonging to The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch nonprofit founded by 29-year-old Boyan Slat.

"It's like a vacuum cleaner for the river," Slat said.

The Ocean Cleanup is on a mission to collect 90% of floating plastic pollution, including cleaning up the Great Pacific garbage patch, a collection of plastic debris and trash twice the size of Texas. The group is now focusing on rivers because its research shows that 80% of all plastic flowing into the ocean comes from just 1% of the world's rivers.

"So if we tackle that 1% of rivers, we think we can have a tremendous impact in a relatively short amount of time," Slat told CBS News.

He's deployed 11 trash interceptors, which can cost up to $650,000, on rivers around the world, and plans to add hundreds more. On a Guatemala river that looks more like a landfill, the device collected 2.5 million pounds of trash in just three weeks.

The 007 interceptor in Los Angeles runs on solar power and is fully autonomous until it needs to be emptied. The barge had to be emptied 15 times this past winter after trash flowed into the river during a series of powerful storms. Los Angeles County said it saw a 75% reduction in trash on nearby beaches after the interceptor arrived.

Slat said his group prevented 77 tons of trash from flowing into the ocean last winter.

"We want the interceptor to stay here as long as plastic flows through this river and would otherwise end up in the ocean," Slat said.

Meaning 007 could be on its assignment for a very long time.

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