Environment

Ocean Cleanup system completed and ready to be towed out to sea

Ocean Cleanup system completed...
The Ocean Cleanup Project is an ambitious venture to clean up plastic waste from the ocean
The Ocean Cleanup Project is an ambitious venture to clean up plastic waste from the ocean
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The Ocean Cleanup system has been named Wilson in reference to the famous volleyball from the film Cast Away
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The Ocean Cleanup system has been named Wilson in reference to the famous volleyball from the film Cast Away
The Ocean Cleanup Project is an ambitious venture to clean up plastic waste from the ocean
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The Ocean Cleanup Project is an ambitious venture to clean up plastic waste from the ocean
Following more than five years years of development the moment of truth is fast arriving for the Ocean Cleanup Project
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Following more than five years years of development the moment of truth is fast arriving for the Ocean Cleanup Project
Ocean Cleanup team members stand proudly in front of their system
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Ocean Cleanup team members stand proudly in front of their system
Following more than five years years of development the moment of truth is fast arriving for the Ocean Cleanup Project
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Following more than five years years of development the moment of truth is fast arriving for the Ocean Cleanup Project
Aerial shot of the Ocean Cleanup Project's assembly yard in San Francisco
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Aerial shot of the Ocean Cleanup Project's assembly yard in San Francisco
Team members added the finishing touches to the very first Ocean Cleanup system over the weekend
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Team members added the finishing touches to the very first Ocean Cleanup system over the weekend
The team estimates a fleet of its Ocean Cleanup systems can clean 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years
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The team estimates a fleet of its Ocean Cleanup systems can clean 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years
A Maersk Launcher vessel will tow the Ocean Cleanup system out to sea
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A Maersk Launcher vessel will tow the Ocean Cleanup system out to sea
Researchers working on the Ocean Cleanup System look over data
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Researchers working on the Ocean Cleanup System look over data
This aerial shot shows how the Ocean Cleanup System absorbs impact from surface waves
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This aerial shot shows how the Ocean Cleanup System absorbs impact from surface waves
Dutch-designed: The Ocean Cleanup System
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Dutch-designed: The Ocean Cleanup System
A vessel will act as a garbage truck to remove the collected plastic every few months
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A vessel will act as a garbage truck to remove the collected plastic every few months

Following more than five years of development, the moment of truth is fast arriving for the Ocean Cleanup Project. Team members added the finishing touches to their very first trash-catching system over the weekend, with less than a week to go until it is towed out towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Dreamt up by Dutch aerospace engineering student turned entrepreneur Boyan Slat, the Ocean Cleanup Project is an ambitious venture to clean up the monumental amount of plastic waste from the ocean.

It has been through numerous iterations, with several prototypes tested at sea along the way. The final design comprises a 600-m-long (2,000 ft) u-shaped barrier with a skirt hanging below, and uses a mix of winds, currents and surface waves to sweep through the Garbage Patch and gather up plastic waste for collection. For more specifics on how it works, you can check out our earlier coverage.

This aerial shot shows how the Ocean Cleanup System absorbs impact from surface waves
This aerial shot shows how the Ocean Cleanup System absorbs impact from surface waves

The team moved into an old naval base in San Francisco in February, where the last six months have been spent piecing the device together. Assembly of the cleanup system was finally completed over the weekend, after it had been transferred to the Seaplane Lagoon alongside the naval base the previous week.

It is now all systems go for a rollout this coming weekend. On Saturday September 8, a Maersk Launcher vessel will tow the system, which has been named Wilson in reference to the famous volleyball from the film Cast Away, out past Alcatraz, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean.

A Maersk Launcher vessel will tow the Ocean Cleanup system out to sea
A Maersk Launcher vessel will tow the Ocean Cleanup system out to sea

There, around 250 nautical miles (463 km) off shore, the system will undergo operational testing over a period of two weeks, before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The team estimates a fleet of its trash-collecting systems can clean 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years.

The video below also offers an explainer of the final system design and technology.

Source: Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup Technology, Explained

8 comments
Martin Winlow
Whilst I applaud the aim of the OCP and marvel at the engineering, I can't help wonder how long it will be before something big and (man-made) collides with it. I appreciate a lot of time, trouble and money has gone into preventing collisions with ships etc but, you know people...! Anyway, best of luck to the team and the boom and I look forward to hearing of great success in the near future.
CarolynFarstrider
I too hope this proves successful, but I wonder what happens to aquatic organisms that also float at or just below the surface, mammals and fish that fail to escape below the skirt? And who is going to pay for the clean up?
galoreplanet
First off I'm kind of shocked more people haven't commented on this and second.....to answer the previous post: maybe the cost of this amazing solution to a human - created problem is to fine everyone and anyone caught throwing plastic into our ocean! It sickens me to see people using the earth and its oceans as their personal garbage can. Or maybe lawmakers need to put their foot down and curb all RECREATIONAL boating, rafting, inner tubing etc. I see drunk boaters and campers throwing cans, plastic bottles, 6 pack holders, garbage and whatever into the water all the time. Fines and loss of boating privileges may wake some people up. This mess was 100% human caused and we as a society should be embarassed. I am proud of the Dutch scientists who created a renewable energy sourced solution to this dilemma!
Kristianna Thomas
It is mind boggling to realize that it will take five years to clean up half the garbage in this part of the ocean. We throw our garbage in the streets and it ends up in the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams throughout the world. We don't talk about those who choose to litter, but we are left with footing the bill for carelessness of others. Trash in the oceans just don't happen, they are the result of people tossing their trash into the streets. We can clean the oceans, which would take about ten years, but if the trash keeps on coming the ten year struggle would be an ongoing war of litter. A clean environment means clean waterways. No litter on land; no litter in the oceans
christopher
a fleet of tiny solar AI boats sounds much more sensible and safe, but I do question the problem: every time a greenie says "woe and doom", they're typically clueless and exaggerating: the only real pictures of that so-called patch I've seen show the smallest amount of "who cares?" (it's invisible), but every article about it has unrelated pictures of floating garbage and polluted beaches as captions. If they want to solve a problem, go to asia or the middle east and install something to catch it at source: every bit of garbage produced near any rivers there, goes into the river: it's literally the only way they can dispose of it. Banning plastic bags and so on in developed countries is just madness: asia pollutes the sea more every day than the entirety of developed nations do over their whole life.
Rasa
Boyan has been hyping this project for years. Anyone who has sailed offshore and encountered storms in the Pacific would expect this structure to break up very quickly. The sea is very unforgiving. At least they will be able to find it. It will be in the Pacific garbage patch?
Expanded Viewpoint
OK, so as I encourage every bit of success for the project, I am also sitting back watching and waiting to see just what the results will be. This IS a brand new adventure, something built upon lots of theory, and it may work and it may not. If it does, kudos to the minds behind it, and if it does not all go to plan, short of a colossal and dismal failure, I sincerely do hope that they will persevere and work out any bugs in the system. As I was telling my Dearest Love yesterday, all systems are composed of subsystems which are made up out of small and simple devices. When a small device fails, that little failure cascades up the line and causes a major problem. The logic tree in this idea is not fully known yet, it being so new, but if it can be worked out, someone will do it. Randy
ljaques
I, too, wish them much luck in the cleanup. It will take much of the crap out of our oceans, and news of the garbage and project itself went viral, so every country who is actively feeding this garbage patch by their negligence is made aware of it. I think it would be good to have some nice little talks with them about cleaning up their own act on their own shores, starting immediately, and paying for the cleanup efforts so far. The interactive map is pretty specific: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/sources/ . I hope the collector weathers the massive storms well, and lives long enough to collect the majority of floating trash. I understand that another being designed for the North Sea is in tests, so the other 3 may be coming out soon after.