Environment

Ocean Cleanup moves beyond testing and outlines a system 3x the size

Ocean Cleanup moves beyond tes...
System 002, or Jenny, in action at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
System 002, or Jenny, in action at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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The Ocean Cleanup says it collected almost 29 tons of plastic trash during the testing phase for System 002
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The Ocean Cleanup says it collected almost 29 tons of plastic trash during the testing phase for System 002
System 002, or Jenny, in action at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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System 002, or Jenny, in action at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Having only just returned from a trial campaign that yielded massive hauls of plastic waste, the Ocean Cleanup Project is now moving beyond testing and kicking off its first operational mission. This will involve redeploying its System 002 collection barrier while simultaneously developing an even larger one, fleets of which it says will eat up 50 percent of Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years.

Launched in 2013 with ambitious plans to collect plastic from the ocean with huge floating barriers, the Ocean Cleanup Project went through a number of redesigns before launching System 002 in August of this year. Nicknamed Jenny, this was the team's largest system yet, spanning 800 meters (2,640 ft), with crewed vessels at either end dragging the barrier through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This testing phase was hailed a huge success, with the team claiming the exercise proved the viability of its ocean cleaning technology with a "massive haul." Having now processed its catch, the team calculates it to be 28,659 kilograms (63,182 pounds) worth of plastic waste, including toilet seats, toothbrushes, discarded fishing gear, laundry baskets, sleds and other items, 95 percent of which it intends to recycle.

The Ocean Cleanup says it collected almost 29 tons of plastic trash during the testing phase for System 002
The Ocean Cleanup says it collected almost 29 tons of plastic trash during the testing phase for System 002

The startup sees this as proof-of-technology and evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can indeed be cleaned, with CEO Boyan Slat claiming it to be the "beginning of the end" for the infamous accumulation of floating trash. It is immediately returning to the area with System 002 to continue the job, formally committing to two six-week stints, but vying to not stop until "the patch is gone," according to Slat.

While Jenny continues scooping up trash, the team will get to work on an even larger system, one it says will be three times the size with a length of 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles). It says this will serve as the blueprint for a fleet of 10 System 003s that will be capable of cleaning 50 percent of the patch every five years.

Despite this exciting progress, questions remain around the overall viability of the Ocean Cleanup's plans, and the environmental impacts of its operations. It says Maersk, who provides the vessels to tow its systems, is experimenting carbon neutral fuels, and that all carbon emissions from the System 002 campaign will be offset.

The overarching problem is the sheer mass of plastic waste that is washing into the ocean, amounting to millions of metric tons each year. River-based collection initiatives, including The Ocean Cleanup's own system called The Interceptor, are helping to intervene in these streams of waste, but The Ocean Cleanup is adamant the accumulated waste in the garbage patch is a problem that needs solving regardless.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

7 comments
7 comments
paul314
Can they get smaller vessels to do the towing, or do they need that size to move all the garbage?
Nelson Hyde Chick
Whoever large their operation becomes it will always be like digging a foundation with a teaspoon as long as humanity is allowed to swell by billions more.
akarp
Yes, removing debris from our oceans...reducing entropy requires input of energy. Everyone (except for the optimistic investors) knew Boyan's 'passive system was nonfunctional. www.unasyest.org

czechster
NASA is blowing billions to put a station on the Moon but we can't clean up our oceans. Where are our priorities?
czechster
Beste Boyan, bedankt voor je inspanningen om onze oceanen schoon te maken. Het is een monumentale klus. Ik wens je al het beste toe.
Eggbones
The greatest danger from the Garbage Patch is from microplastics getting into fauna starting with animals that feed on plankton. That's where Slat began, but has dropped back to progressively less ambitious objectives as each of his "systems" has proved ineffective. This is a story about generating investment, not saving the environment. It's lazy journalism not to recognise the difference.
ljaques
That's all well and good, but please concentrate your efforts on building and deploying your riverine trash-war boats, please. Stop it before it gets to the ocean! Thousands of Interceptors should be built and deployed ASAP. Also, how goes the recycling of retrieved plastics? We're not hearing about that.