Trash trawler launched off Indonesia’s Bali

A small boat designed to collect ocean waste took to the water for the first time off Indonesia’s Bali island on Tuesday, launching a mission to tackle pollution in a region notorious for its marine plastics problem.

The Mobula 8, brainchild of 52-year-old Franco-Swiss Yvan Bourgnon, is capable of clearing solid debris, microwaste and oil spills, and he expects it to retrieve up to 1,000 tonnes of waste annually.

Bourgnon founded non-governmental organisation SeaCleaners in 2016 after sailing solo around the world and witnessing first hand the extent of the ocean plastics crisis.

He hopes Mobula 8 will be an idea replicated elsewhere and said it was his dream that thousands more are mobilised.

“When I sailed along Bali island in 2014, I discovered this island, this beautiful island, but I was for sure a little bit disappointed by this plastic pollution,” he said.

“I promised to come back here with the solution,” he said.

Asia has been identified as the biggest contributor to ocean plastic and Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is a major source country.

Plastics pollution threatens extinction of marine species, and microplastics have now become part of the food chain, with environmental groups warning of severe consequences for life and the planet.

Bali’s iconic beaches have in recent years been littered with trash during the peak of the monsoon season, as heavy winds and rain wash up pollution from neighbouring Java island.

“It is very disturbing to us as surfers and those who swim there,” 21-year-old Rifon Laia said of plastics.

Henry Lin, a tourist from Taiwan who is learning to surf, said the Mobula 8 was a good idea, but had limitations.

“We should stop throwing trash in the sea and use less plastic bags, produce less plastic garbage, plastic products,” he said.