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A ship to capture and recycle all the ocean’s plastic waste

A German non-profit environmental organization is working on a project to transform an existing bulk carrier into a floating environmental centre as part of their initiative to collect and recycle plastic waste from the ocean and coastal areas. The group emphasizes that the vessel’s mobility and integrated design offer a comprehensive solution that doesn’t require additional space in targeted urban regions, providing financial advantages as well.

In February of this year, One Earth – One Ocean finalized the initial design for the vessel, called SeeElefant 2023, with a team of experts in plant engineering and shipbuilding. Currently, they are actively establishing the necessary networks for investment, financing, ship management, and operations. Additionally, they are closely monitoring the second hand ship market to find a suitable vessel for the conversion. The goal is to complete the conversion by the end of 2023, commence trial operations in either the North Sea or Baltic Sea by mid-2025, and deploy the vessel in Southeast Asia by 2026.

Harald Frank, the project development lead, expressed excitement about the SeeElefant project, stating, “With SeeElefant, we can finally merge cutting-edge technologies from the shipbuilding and waste management sectors, achieving internationally recognized low emission values. Our turnkey SeeElefant will play a crucial role in addressing and properly disposing of plastic waste.”

The selected vessel is a dry bulk carrier measuring approximately 590 feet in length and equipped with four deck cranes. This sizeable space allows for the establishment of a recycling plant with a yearly capacity of 60,000 tons. Within the ship, there would be a dedicated facility designed to sort, shred, and process marine debris. The plastic waste would be compacted into bales for further processing. Non-recyclable waste materials would be utilized to fuel an onboard waste-to-energy plant, with the generated power being sold and supplied to shore power grids. Additionally, the project includes plans for a large-scale research facility on the vessel, aimed at conducting extensive analysis on plastic and waste materials, as well as testing waste-to-fuel technologies.

To facilitate efficient operations, the vessel would be stationed at a shore-based transfer station responsible for managing the baled plastic waste destined for recycling. This setup would also enable the vessel to receive and process waste from the shore. Furthermore, the project envisions the conversion of plastic back into sulphur-free oil onboard as soon as industrial-scale plastics-to-fuel plants become available.

The SeeElefant will collaborate with the group’s specialized garbage collection vessels, namely SeeHamster and SeeKuh. SeeHamster, their smallest unit, has been in operation for more than a decade. It has undergone developments and now takes the form of catamarans, measuring approximately 15 feet in length, with a collection capacity of up to 500 kg. On the other hand, SeeKuh is a larger design, either in the form of a boat or a skid dragged by boats, intended for collecting a greater volume of trash in coastal waters.

One Earth – One Ocean is actively engaged in ongoing projects aimed at removing plastic waste from the waters in Cambodia, Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Egypt. Additionally, they have plans to launch a SeeHamster on Lake Victoria in Uganda later this year. The organization is also dedicated to conducting research on microplastics, as well as fostering education, raising awareness, and documenting marine litter-related issues.

The introduction of the SeeElefant marks the next phase in their efforts. The organizers firmly believe that it will play a crucial role in advancing their mission to eliminate oceanic waste.

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