The Ocean Cleanup Successfully Catches Plastic in Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Humankind’s disgraceful rubbish footprint swirling between California and Hawaii may have just met its match.
After years in development, the Ocean Cleanup has officially commenced — signifying the beginning of the end for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s been six years since entrepreneur Boyan Slat began developing a system to purge the world’s oceans of destructive plastics.
After beginning this journey seven years ago, this first year of testing in the unforgivable environment of the high seas strongly indicates that our vision is attainable and that the beginning of our mission to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, which has accumulated for decades, is within our sights.
Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup
Slat founded the nonprofit “The Ocean Cleanup” in 2013, an ambitious project with a benevolent goal; removing plastic from the trash-laden vortex in the Pacific Ocean, a garbage monstrosity that doubles the size of Texas. The group designed a U-shaped catching device that collects plastic into its fold like a giant arm, essentially creating a coastline in the deep ocean. This project involves a supply ship towing a floating 2,000-foot boom that collects marine plastic, so it can be recycled. The system includes a tapered 10-foot skirt that catches plastic floating just below the surface.
The aim of System 001/B was to test modifications, primarily aiming to correct the inconsistent speed difference between the system and the plastic. Consistency was realized by decelerating the system with a parachute sea anchor, allowing for faster-moving plastic debris to float into the system. The resolve of this challenge led to another. The plastic was “still escaping the system” by floating over top of the boom.
"And that's now what we've been able to resolve by having what you call a corkline, so a sort of a large barrier that's floating on the surface, which prevents plastic from actually leaving the system again," said Slat.
So far, the team has collected a large variety of plastic objects. Ranging from large fishing nets to plastic objects such as cartons and crates. The system has even proved effective in catching micro-plastics as small as 1 millimeter in length.
Though still in its early stages, “The Ocean Cleanup” project is an important step towards cleaning our oceans and protecting the delicate ecosystems that rely on them.
Image Credit: "The Ocean Cleanup"