Called “The Collector”, this catamaran-type boat is coupled with a participatory mobile application (I Clean My Sea) which allows ocean users – yachtsmen, surfers, swimmers or simple beach walkers – to report plastic slicks at sea.

“The two sailors on board the collector receive a notification, with the photo taken by the user and the GPS location”, explains Aymeric Jouon, researcher in oceanography and creator of the company operating the boat, of the same name as the application. He thus hopes, with the help of users, “to create a map of floating waste in real time”.

This collection, to which the city of Biarritz devotes 60,000 euros, is seasonal, adapted to the peak of tourist attendance on the Basque coast, explains Mathieu Kayser, deputy for the environment. “If we could, we would use the boat all year round, but that has a cost,” says the elected official.

The operation was carried out in previous years by another service provider, but this time the participatory aspect of the application is innovative, added the deputy.

On the beaches of Biarritz, every morning, municipal employees also pick up the stranded waste, brought back by the currents.

“There is always a little more waste each year, it’s a problem of global consumption. We try to find all the solutions to cope, at our level”, adds Mr. Kayser, cautious to give figures of the quantity collected before the end of the mission of “The Collector”, in September.

– “Square the waterways”

The white catamaran, decorated with a blue wave, has a conveyor belt installed between the two hulls and on which the flow of water pushes the waste, which is then sorted by hand.

“80% of the waste is very fine plastics or microplastics, sometimes caught in a pile of algae, so we try to sort”, explains Valentin Ledée, 22, second captain.

With a landing net, he also catches everything that passes near the boat, such as at the foot of the cliff of the Biarritz lighthouse, in this cove opposite the casino and the Grande Plage, where the accumulation is more obvious.

Winds and tides also have an impact. “If there is a light westerly wind, it pushes the plastics back towards the coast and when the water levels rise, it picks up everything that is on the banks or what has been deposited on the beaches”, affirms Aymeric Jouon. Thus, assures Mathieu Kayser, “80% of the waste collected at sea arrives from land”.

The supply of waste from rivers and streams, such as the Adour, the Bidassoa or the Nivelle, is a headache.

“For me, the best course of action would be to focus on the mouths and crisscross the rivers,” analyzes Mr. Jouon. In the same way, the oceanographic researcher would like to be able to perpetuate his action in winter, a season which brings up even more plastic according to storms and floods, “but with much more complicated navigation conditions”.

Beyond the 300-meter coastal strip, in which “The Collector” works, another boat crisscrosses the waters between the mouth of the Adour, in Bayonne, and the Spanish border, in Hendaye.

Commissioned by the Basque Country Agglomeration Community and by the Pyrénées-Atlantiques Department, it collected several tonnes of plastic waste in 2021.