James Dyson’s Vacuum Barge Aims To Make Rivers Cleaner

By Nick Venable | 7 years ago

james dysonOne of the most frightening images that comes to mind before the emptiness of sleep is the monstrous Pacific Garbage Patch opening its rotting mouth and sinking sharpened plastic teeth into my ship during the ONE time I win a radio contest for a trans-Pacific cruise. This may be my own personal nightmare, but it should be universal. I’m surprised there’s no current series of horror films that centers on giant ocean trash monsters. Inventor and vacuum innovator James Dyson wants to tackle the growing problem of water-bound plastic garbage with a real world solution, instead of just nuking everything like they inevitably would in the movie. Enter the M.V. Recyclone.

Dyson proposed the Recyclone idea last month in a short piece in Time, but went deeper into the concept and its origin for Fast Company’s Exist website. His ideas, unfortunately, don’t address existing garbage patches, but are a preventative system to stop more of these deadly eyesores from forming in the future. The Recyclone is a barge that employs large nets that skim the surfaces of rivers to collect floating plastics and other debris, which then get sucked into the central vessel, where the waste is separated and processed.

I know there is at least one person, besides me, who thought, “Oh, well I guess I don’t need to ever recycle if it’s just going to get taken care of later on down the line anyway.” We all get a special sticker.

Dyson first figured the barges would sit at fixed locations, but decided that wouldn’t maximize their efficiency, so the floating trash-eating behemoth was conceived. He explains more or less exactly how the machine would work.

Large skim nets unfurl from the rollers at its stern and are anchored on each side of the river. Hydraulic winches wind them in and out. The nets face upstream and skim the surface of the river for floating debris. The plastic waste is shredded on board and then different grades of plastic are separated by a huge cyclone—every similar to the way our cyclonic vacuums work.

Take a look at a few of the conceptual drawings.

dyson recyclone


dyson recyclone

You probably couldn’t tell, but I drew the water in that last picture.

An untouched issue for this idea is what happens to things that aren’t plastic that just happen to also be on the surface of the river when the Recyclone is around? Big nets aren’t inherently picky when it comes to what they catch. I would like to see a very on-the-nose drawing of “No Fish” and “No Humans” buttons on the side of the barge. In the meantime, be smart with your trash, so that the Recyclone won’t have as much to do by the time it gets into action. Burn it. BURN IT ALL!

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