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The most daring project to clean up ocean plastic goes live: The Ocean Cleanup | System 001

The stats around the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans are staggering.

 

With documentaries such as Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, and more recently, Liz Bonnin’s Drowning in Plastic, the terrifying amount of marine plastic is currently front-and-centre in the minds of the public.

 

And now, there’s a project that seems able to do something about it.

 

Ocean garbage patches

 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located halfway between California and Hawaii. It contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic – of which 94% are microplastics – and is roughly three times the size of France.

 

It isn’t the only one.

 

Much of marine plastic is concentrated by ocean currents in five areas, the sub-tropical gyres. The plastic pollution, while concentrated here, spreads across millions of square kilometres in all directions.

 

Due to the gyres, there are five garbage patches in the world’s oceans: North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, and the Indian Ocean.

 

While microplastics make up the vast majority of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a significant amount also consists of discarded fishing gear.

 

 Many marine animals are eating, inhaling, or getting caught up in nets and lines, and it is causing considerable damage to the marine environment.

 

Birds, fish, and reptiles are also ingesting plastic in vast quantities, severely impacting their lifespan and causing widespread death.

 

A bold plan

 

While many people have attempted to address the seemingly insurmountable levels of plastic, in 2013, one Dutch inventor – then 18 years old – founded a new ocean clean-up project.

 

Boyan Slat’s vision has since evolved into the world’s largest clean-up.

Despite the vastness of the garbage patch, the technology developed is predicted to have a significant impact: in fact, a full-scale system roll-out could clean up 50% of it in five years!

 

Taking advantage of natural oceanic forces – current, wind, and waves – the technology is autonomous, energy neutral, and scalable.

 

And the system has been designed to both safeguard sea life and survive storms.

 

The concept is to essentially create a floating coastline where plastic will naturally collect. It’s a 600-metre long floater which sits at the water’s surface and has a tapered 3-meter deep skirt attached.

 

By using the natural oceanic currents, with the advantage of wind and waves for speed, each boom is expected to trap 150,000 pounds of plastic every year.

 

Periodically, vessels will visit the boom to collect the plastic and return it to land for processing and recycling.

 

 

Removing 90% of ocean plastic by 2040

 

If ocean plastics continue to rise at their current rate, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2040. However, the Ocean Cleanup project – if successful – is projected to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040.

 

Over 80 staff are part of the project, made up of passionate engineers, scientists, and researchers, who launched System 001 into the Pacific Ocean for trialling throughout September.

 

After two weeks of testing from 15th September, the system is now finally being deployed to commence clean-up of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

 

If you want to be kept up-to-date with news and live updates about the Ocean Cleanup now the system is working in the Pacific Ocean, click here.

 

Resources:

https://www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/09/10/the-worlds-largest-ocean-cleanup-has-officially-begun/#193fd1fd2738

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Great-Pacific-Garbage-Patch

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic – of which 94% are microplastics – and is roughly three times the size of France.
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