FAQ’s

THE GENESIS OF THE MANTA

Where did the idea for the Manta come from?

At the age of 8, Yvan Bourgnon went around the world by boat with his parents.

Thirty-five years later, in 2013, during his single-handed circumnavigation of the world, he realized with astonishment that all the oceans he knew as a child are now largely polluted by plastic waste and that the paradisiacal places he knew are now nothing more than garbage dumps.

From this shock was born the imperative need to act. He then created The SeaCleaners in 2016.

Why did you choose the name Manta for the boat?

The Manta ray is the largest of the rays (7 meters on average). In spite of its large size, it feeds on plankton and exceptionally on crustaceans that it brings to its mouth with its cephalic fins. Its majestic beauty, its power, its ability to feed by filtering water make the Manta ray a universal symbol of freedom, wisdom and quiet strength in the service of just causes. It is therefore the ray that inspired the name of our ocean-cleaning boat.

How did you imagine the design of this boat?

Yvan Bourgnon, who came up with the idea of a clean-up boat, assembled around him a team of experts, engineers, naval architects and scientists to carry out the feasibility study and the design study of the boat. The objective was to enable the boat to carry out all of its missions in the most efficient way possible, while optimizing its construction and operating costs and having the smallest possible ecological footprint.

The Manta is the result of 3 years of Research and Development, which mobilized a team of 58 engineers, technicians and researchers from some 20 industrial companies, including world leaders in their field, and five research laboratories, all brought together in a one-of-a-kind technical consortium.

Why did you choose a catamaran as your boat? What is the advantage of this particular type of boat compared to an ordinary boat?

We wanted the Manta to be as green as possible and have the smallest possible energy footprint. A catamaran is a sailboat, so it consumes much less energy than other types of boats. When operating the Manta, our goal is to use the sails as much as possible for propulsion. Fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emissions, will thus be reduced to a minimum.

We wanted the Manta to be as green as possible and have the smallest possible energy footprint. A catamaran is a sailboat, so it consumes much less energy than other types of boats. When operating the Manta, our goal is to use the sails as much as possible for propulsion. Fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emissions, will thus be reduced to a minimum.

HOW DOES THE MANTA OPERATE

What's special about the Manta?

The Manta is the only marine pollution clean-up initiative designed to fulfil 4 complementary missions in order to provide a 360° response to the scourge of plastic pollution.

  1. Collect floating plastic waste

The first mission of the Manta is to collect and manage plastic waste at sea, through repurposing or storage, mainly in the mouths and estuaries of large rivers where the slicks are particularly concentrated, before the waste fragments and reaches the seabed or ocean gyres, where it is extremely difficult to recover it. The Manta will be able to recover waste of very small size, from 10 millimetres and up to one meter in depth.

  1. Advance global scientific research

The Manta will host scientific teams on board the ship and provide them with state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment to conduct waste geolocation, quantification and characterization missions. The results of these missions will be made public and the data available in Open Data to advance the efficacity of the fight against ocean plastic pollution.

  1. Carry out public awareness actions

The Manta will welcome the public on board during its stopovers. Awareness campaigns will be displayed to encourage communities most affected by plastic pollution to take action

  1. Promote the transition to the local circular economy

The Manta will carry a full range of technological solutions to combat ocean plastic pollution, from waste collection solutions to waste treatment and recovery. It will also showcase innovative clean shipping technologies for smart and green ships. Visits to these facilities will be organized so that local political, industrial and economic players can take ownership of them to combat their pollution problems.

Thanks to its multiple collection means, the Manta will be one of the largest collectors, with a target of between 5,000 and 10,000 metric tons of waste per year.

It will also be the only vessel capable of industrially processing 100% of the plastic collected, while operating at 75% without using fossil fuels, on average.

How many people can the Manta accommodate?

The Manta can accommodate 34 people on board. A crew of 22 people is required to manoeuvre the boat and operate the onboard plant (waste collection, manual sorting, storage, supervision). In addition to the crew, the boat will be able to accommodate 12 guests: scientific teams from around the world for onboard missions, NGOs, companies, political and economic decision-makers, etc. The Manta will not only be a boat-cum-waste plant, it will also be a state-of-the-art laboratory for the observation, analysis and understanding of plastic pollution, an educational platform and an ambassador for the cause.

What are concretely the technical characteristics of the Manta that make it unique and effective?

The Manta is the only solution currently under development that allows for the targeted mass collection and treatment of macro-waste floating on the surface of the oceans. It is an active mobile solution, complementary to other collection actions at sea, which are generally limited to areas protected from swell, such as port areas, carried out on a smaller scale (small collection capacities such as trawlers), or carried out passively, for example using drifting collection systems that recover plastics that have been largely disaggregated.

In which regions will you carry out waste collections?

In order to be as efficient as possible, we will go to the areas with the highest concentrations of waste, i.e. the estuaries or mouths of the most polluting large rivers. Targeting will also be based on satellite images that we will collect and exploratory campaigns set up by the association. We will also rely on data coming from other associations or NGOs, and from all other specialized organizations ready to support us in our actions.

The specificity of the Manta is that it is a deep-sea vessel, which makes it a mobile clean-up solution. It will therefore also be able to intervene rapidly in areas hit by climatic or natural disasters (tsunami, or hurricane), which cause very large influxes of waste into the oceans and coastlines.

How will waste be collected, recycled and processed on board and ashore?

Waste will be brought aboard the Manta via the collection mats located between the hulls, via the trawls installed at the stern of the boat, or via the Mobula, our small multi-service waste collection boats. Waste will then be sorted manually. Organic waste that is not soiled with plastic particles will be thrown back into the water. Most of the remaining plastic waste will be recovered on board and converted into electricity to power the propulsion and operation of the boat. Part of the non-recoverable waste will be stored in order to be unloaded in the ports to be taken care of by local treatment and recycling channels.

What will you do with the collected plastic?

Our goal is to bring as little plastic as possible ashore. And in this case, it will only be because we are sure that adequate recycling facilities exist and that they can process the plastic we bring back. Most, if not all, of the plastic collected at sea will be converted into electricity through our waste-to-energy unit.

Waste that is not treated and converted to energy on board will be stored in big bags on board before being offloaded in the port for delivery to local recycling industry partners where possible, or to The SeaCleaners’ international partners.

The philosophy of The SeaCleaners is to contribute to the development of the circular economy and recycling industries in the countries where the Manta will operate. We will therefore work with local recycling stakeholders in each country to identify the best partners. To this end, we are already in contact with local authorities and associations in the initial areas of intervention.

How does the waste-to-energy plant work?

Everything we collect and transform on board the Manta will be converted into something valuable according to the principles of the circular economy we embrace.

The collected plastic will be crushed, transformed into pellets to increase its energy efficiency. Three types of products will be generated: mainly synthesis gas (which will be converted 90% into electricity by a turbine), a small amount of char (coal dust) which will be stored and valorized on land (to make bitumen; in a cement plant, or used as fuel) and heat emissions which will be recovered for the needs of the Manta (heating, etc.). Nothing is wasted.

How long will a collection campaign last?

Each collection mission will last approximately 3 weeks on average, depending on the density of the waste slicks to be collected, the storage capacity of the vessel and the availability of renewable energy sources (wind and sunshine).

How many tons of plastic do you plan to collect per day on average during a mission?

The various waste collection systems and the onboard waste treatment plant have been designed to collect and process approximately 3 tons per hour, i.e. up to 60 tons per day.

However, waste collection will vary depending on the size and density of the marine waste patches that the Manta vessel will encounter.

The waste patches can have widely varying densities and are not just adjacent to each other. They are sometimes several kilometers apart. In order to be as efficient as possible in our collection mission, we are therefore working with several university partners on technologies and mathematical modeling that allow us to geolocalize the waste slicks and determine their drift. It is also with a view to efficiency that we have designed mobile solutions (the Manta, complemented by the two small Mobula collection boats for coastal and river areas) that allow us to go quickly to where waste concentrations are highest.

How much waste will the Manta be able to collect in a year?

The Manta is sized to collect large quantities of waste: each mission should remove several dozen tons of waste from the water. Its objective is to collect 5 to 10,000 tons per year.

What are the maximum and minimum sizes of oceanic plastic waste that the Manta can collect?

The Manta will be able to collect waste from 10 to 20 mm. This is an key point to make the Manta an efficient and adapted solution to plastic pollution. We will be able to collect both debris considered as micro-waste (less than 25 mm) and macro-waste (anything larger than 25 mm – according to the international standard). It was essential for The SeaCleaners to be able to collect the smallest possible size of waste, as it is known that the size of plastic waste is highly variable, ranging from microscopic to macroscopic (observable with the naked eye). Under the effect of water and sunlight, plastics fragment into smaller and smaller pieces.

There is no maximum size: we will have cranes as well as specific storage areas for the most bulky waste.

Will the Manta be able to collect microparticles?

The Manta will be able to collect very small waste, from 10 millimeters, considered as micro-waste, but not the smallest particles generated by the decomposition of plastic waste. Collecting these micro-particles is extremely difficult, if not impossible at present. The SeaCleaners is focusing on floating waste in areas where this waste is in high concentration, but also where it has not yet spent much time in seawater and where it has had little exposure to UV light. Our objective is to collect them before they fragment or disintegrate to become micro-waste.

Will you only collect and sort plastic waste? What will you do with other waste (bottles, toys, sports shoes, towels, other packaging)?

Waste will be sorted manually after the collection phase. What will not be converted into energy will be stored to be brought back to the shore and re-injected into local recycling routes. Our waste storage capacity is just over 50 tons (140 cubic meters). In addition to this, we will have a 33 m3 container for nets and a 33 m3 container for hazardous waste, for a total of 206 m3 of storage.

What is the shipyard where the boat will be built?

The selection of the shipyard will happen during the year 2022.

When will the boat be launched?

The launch is scheduled for the end of 2024 so that the first collections can be made in 2025.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE MANTA

Will this boat be a nuisance for the marine fauna and flora?

Every effort is made to minimize the impact on marine fauna and flora. In particular, the boat will be equipped with an infrasound system to keep marine animals away from the boat by scaring off fish and marine mammals when approaching the boat.

Waste sorting will be done manually: the few living organisms and the organic waste that will get caught in the collection mats will be immediately put back into the water, without damage.

Except in special cases, anchoring will not be necessary, so the impact on the sea grass beds and marine flora will be minimized, and the calls will be scheduled in ports equipped with infrastructures to handle the cargoes of waste brought back by the vessel.

What is the ecological impact of the vessel?

Minimizing the ecological footprint of the vessel has been paramount throughout the conception phase of the Manta.

In order to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, the Manta will use as much as possible renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydrogenerators…) as well as the electricity produced by the waste-to-energy conversion unit, in order to navigate and operate its onboard equipment. Fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emissions, will be reduced as much as possible. On average, the boat will be 75% autonomous.

The total amount of energy required to operate the Manta has also been optimized.

Will the construction of the vessel itself be environmentally friendly?

We have designed the Manta to be as clean as possible, both in its operation and design.

To that end, we conducted an exhaustive life cycle analyses on every aspect of the design, to determine the best materials, the most durable, the most recyclable, those with the lowest carbon footprint, from the first stage of extracting the resources needed for their assembly, to the last stage of their life cycle. This in-depth analysis avoids succumbing to “false good ideas” and making informed choices. When making choices, we also pay close attention to finding the right balance between the boat’s materials and its weight, because if the materials are too heavy, the boat will be less manoeuvrable and will consume more energy. We take all these parameters into account.

How does the propulsion system work in general? What makes the boat emission-free?

Our goal is for the Manta to operate at a level of 75% energy self-sufficiency on average. To achieve this, the sails will be used most of the time, alone or with the propellers, in order to minimize the energy consumption, the ecological footprint and the operating costs of the boat.

We have dissociated two propulsion phases. The first is the phase during which the boat will collect waste at low speed, about three knots: it will then operate with electric motors powered mainly by renewable energies. The second propulsion phase corresponds to the delivery of the waste to shore. In this case, we will use the sails to reach the port as quickly as possible, at a speed of eight knots.

In addition to its 1,500 m² of sails, the Manta will be equipped with 450 m² of solar panels, two wind turbines, hydrogenerators and an energy recovery system that will generate electricity to power the propellers and the on-board installation.

An on-board customized energy management system will determine the most efficient combination of the different sources of energy production available on board (wind turbines, hydrogen generators, solar panels, large rigs…) to meet the energy consumption needs of the missions in progress.

This unique energy management system will integrate a routing module capable of calculating – based on weather forecasts – the most efficient routes in terms of energy production and hybrid propulsion (engine and/or sails). This pioneering combination of technologies will minimize both the environmental impact of the vessel and its operational costs.

THE FINANCING OF THE MANTA PROJECT

Is the Manta project profitable?

As a public interest association, The SeaCleaners is a non-profit organization. The Manta is developed to contribute to the common good. The problem of ocean plastic pollution can be compared to the collection of waste in municipalities. Is waste removal profitable? No, it is a public service. But it is necessary if we do not want to live in streets littered with garbage and to avoid public health problems.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that, when designing the Manta, every effort is made to use the financial donations of our supporters in the most efficient way possible: we have designed a ship that will not only be the cheapest possible to build but also the cheapest possible to operate, while carrying out its missions in the most efficient way possible. This can be achieved by increasing its energy autonomy to reduce fuel consumption costs, by controlling the number of crew members and operators, by optimizing its size, etc.

Finally, the technological solutions promoted by The SeaCleaners for the management and recovery of plastic waste and clean shipping are developed to be quickly and effectively adopted and implemented as part of local circular economy development initiatives implemented, and to be economically viable.

How is the Manta Project funded?

We rely solely on donations from individual and corporate sponsors to operate the association and to finance the design and construction of the first boat. We also receive support through our e-shop.

How much will it cost to build the Manta?

The Manta will cost around 35 million euros, which is relatively little compared to other similar industrial projects and the total number of missions the vessel will carry out. The Manta is a pioneering ship like no other in the world: it will be the world’s first mobile vessel capable of collecting, processing and recovering large quantities of plastic waste. And it will also host scientific and educational missions.

Who says “first”, says “tests”, “prototypes” and tens of thousands of hours of studies: we had to test and validate many scientific and technical hypotheses to achieve optimal efficiency.

100% of the budget is of private origin, thanks to the corporate sponsors who support us.

What are private donations used for?

Through their donations, individuals contribute to a major environmental project and fight in a concrete way against plastic pollution in the oceans, by participating in the financing of the design and construction of the Manta, and in the operating costs of the NGO so that it can carry out its missions of awareness, education, scientific research?

HOW TO ACT AGAINST PLASTIC POLLUTION?

How is it possible to solve the problem of plastic pollution?

Through the combination of everyone’s efforts! Reducing plastic pollution will only be possible if everyone gets involved. That is to say individuals, decision-makers and businesses. Faced with a problem of such magnitude, mobilization must be massive and collective. All the levers for change must be activated: changes in industrial processes, changes in public policies and changes in individual behavior. It is up to each individual to start changing, to take responsibility and set an example for others to follow!

Who does the collected waste belong to?

According to international maritime law, waste found in international waters belongs to those who find it.

However, in the territorial waters in which Manta will mainly carry out its collection campaigns (in estuaries and river mouths), the ownership of the collected waste depends on the national laws of the countries off which Manta operates, and this varies.

For these reasons, discussions will be held with the local authorities prior to the collection campaigns in order to obtain the necessary authorizations for these collections.

Why don't you plan to clean the gyres in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans where most of the marine plastic waste is found?

The plastics found in oceanic gyres are very old, disintegrated and very fragmented plastics. Although images look impressive, the concentrations of plastic waste are relatively low and the debris is often very small, almost impossible to collect. There are other passive collection systems that are trying to find the best technologies to deal with these areas. We have chosen to act in areas with high concentrations of waste and to intervene before the plastics degrade, fragment, sink or drift, and are impossible to recover.

Do you think you will be able to solve the problem of marine plastic waste if you only catch the ones that float?

We do not make false promises. A single cleaning device alone cannot solve the plastic waste problem.

At The SeaCleaners, our goal is to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Giving up collecting totally, for the sole reason that you are not able to clean everything, would be like giving up collecting garbage on land because you have not yet achieved total zero waste. We refuse fatalism and are determined to do our part, even though the task at hand is huge.

Why are you trying to collect plastic instead of working on reducing plastic production?

We are working on all fronts. On land, at sea, through corrective collection actions, but also through preventive actions.

We carry out education and awareness-raising actions, alone or in partnership, to encourage ecogestures and turn off the plastic tap at the source.

The Manta itself has not only a mission to collect and recycle waste: it is also a scientific research laboratory, where all data will be accessible in Open Data, and an educational platform. Our action is resolutely based on these two pillars: corrective and preventive.

And we shouldn’t forget that collecting waste at sea creates a virtuous circle: it enables us to deliver concrete, rapid and visible results, which in turn help to raise awareness, mobilize public authorities, businesses, communities and citizens, and get the lines moving.

Will we one day be able to eliminate plastic from the ocean, since every year man pours millions more tons of plastic into the sea?

In its latest resolutions, the United Nations itself advocates cleaning up ecosystems in parallel with upstream work.

We do not make false promises. A single cleaning device alone cannot solve the problem of plastic waste.

It is easy to give up in the face of the magnitude of the problem, to say to oneself that there is no point in collecting. We do not agree. We refuse to resign ourselves. We place ourselves on the side of the solutionists, on the side of those who think that action is always preferable to inaction and passivity. We are like the hummingbird in the fable: no gesture is harmless when it is replicated thousands of times. If everyone contributes, even on an individual scale, to reducing plastic pollution, we will bring about change.

And then we must not forget that collection at sea creates a virtuous circle: it enables us to give concrete, rapid, visible results, which in turn help to raise awareness, mobilize public authorities, businesses, communities, citizens and get the lines moving.

Finally, the Manta is intended to be a technology demonstrator boat: we want to show that collection and recovery technologies are efficient and affordable, and thus encourage public and private players to take them on board. We are in the duplication model. Our objective is to encourage other players to take ownership of the problem and act, whether they are local authorities, private companies, governments, etc. We want to show that collection and recovery technologies are effective and affordable, and thus encourage public and private players to take ownership of the problem.

Why go out to sea to collect waste?

In its most recent resolutions, the United Nations recommends cleaning up ecosystems in parallel with upstream prevention and awareness-raising work.

As a precautionary principle: the results of campaigns to reduce the consumption and production of plastics will bear fruit for years to come. In the meantime, waste continues to disintegrate into microplastics that are absorbed by marine life and pass into our food chain. While the toxic effects of microplastics on our health are still largely unknown today, researchers at the University of Arizona (USA) recently detected them for the first time in human organs.

Environmental reasons: 1,000,000 seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals die each year by ingestion or suffocation. Collecting waste helps prevent the situation from getting worse. And above all, it saves lives: every kilo of plastic collected is a kilo of plastic that won’t kill.

For citizen mobilization: this battle requires maintaining good wills by regularly sharing successes, big and small. It is easy to give up when faced with the magnitude of the problem, to tell oneself that there is no point in collecting. We do not agree. We refuse resignation. We place ourselves on the side of the “solutionists”, on the side of those who think that action is always preferable to passivity.

Are macro-plastics really a priority when studies show that the majority of ocean plastic pollution is composed of micro-plastics?

Opposing macro and microplastics is a false debate. It is like saying that we should only regulate car traffic on highways and not on small country roads, or vice versa. To want to fight some crimes but not all. The credibility of any action against marine pollution rests on the commitment to deal with all forms of marine pollution.

Today, there is no effective operational solution for collecting microplastics below a certain size. Giving up collecting macro-waste in the hope that one hypothetical day microplastics can be collected is a risky gamble. On the other hand, microplastics are partly formed from macro-plastics. By reducing the macro-plastics, we reduce the microplastics.

Won't the fact of collecting encourage people to continue to pollute?

At The SeaCleaners, we believe that collection can play a role in raising awareness and mobilization.

In a long-term battle such as plastics collection, we need to mobilize minds and keep good will motivated by sharing intermediate “victories”. We are convinced that collection at sea creates a virtuous circle: it allows for concrete, rapid, visible results, which in turn help to raise awareness, mobilize public authorities, businesses, communities, individuals and get the lines moving.

Do you think that the scourge of plastic pollution can be ultimately stopped?

If we act collectively, we can reduce the damage and eventually control the problem. Stopping plastic pollution remains impossible as long as we continue to live, consume and mass-produce plastic as we do today.

Thanks to the awareness and education actions carried out by hundreds of actors around the world, including The SeaCleaners, and political initiatives directed against single-use plastic, attitudes are changing. A collective awareness is on the way to deal with this scourge in a sustainable manner. We must believe in it and act!

WHAT’S NEXT

Are you going to build a fleet of Manta and sell them?

The SeaCleaners is a public interest association, not a start-up. Our objective is not to sell boats but to develop an emblematic showcase boat that shows that “cleaning” the oceans is possible, thanks to reliable, efficient and economically viable technologies.

Our objective is to encourage other players to take ownership of the problem and take action, whether they be communities, private companies, States… We are in a model of duplication.

A Manta alone will not solve the problem of plastic pollution, we need to create a fleet. But we will not be able to do it alone. The objective of The SeaCleaners is to lead the way, to be a pioneer, and to develop the best technological options to show the way, with solutions that are technically feasible and efficient, socially acceptable and economically viable. Within The SeaCleaners, our Manta Innovation branch develops these technologies, which will be adopted by other players and replicated.