A sketch of the M.V. Recyclone concept / James Dyson/Time

Dyson's patented cyclone vacuums would suck up the plastic debris

James Dyson has suggested using his company’s vacuuming expertise to create a unique barge that cleans waterways by sucking up plastic and other debris.

Dyson proposed the idea in Time, noting that “the amount of plastic debris in the oceans has grown a hundredfold in the past 40 years” and that as plastic doesn’t biodegrade, humans are creating huge floating garbage patches that kill sealife and birds mistaking the material for food.

The M.V. Recyclone barge would aim to help reduce pollution by targeting rivers - often the source of contamination. With a large net fixed to each side of the river to dredge the surface, an onboard suction system (using the same cyclone technology in Dyson’s vacuums) would pull in plastic waste to be shredded and sorted by grades of plastic.

"By skimming a highly concentrated flow of larger sized plastics in polluted rivers, the M.V. Recyclone would effectively mine a major source of the pollution before it reached the sea," said Dyson in an email exchange with Fast Company.

“To capture both large and small debris, you would probably need to employ a series of stages of separation. As better technology became available, you could upgrade the vessel to make it more efficient," he said.

Of course, this is little more than a concept at the present time, with Dyson freely admitting that the design would need serious work before it became a reality: “The concept is the easy bit! It would need to be prototyped, tested, and refined and that’s the hard part.”