Environment

Ocean Cleanup starts harvesting plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Ocean Cleanup starts harvestin...
The Ocean Cleanup's prototype System 001/B has now started capturing plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Ocean Cleanup's prototype System 001/B has now started capturing plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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After a year of testing, the self-contained prototype System 001/B has started passively collecting plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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After a year of testing, the self-contained prototype System 001/B has started passively collecting plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
As well as capturing visible plastic waste, including discarded ghost nets from commercial fishing operations, the prototype System 001/B can also trap microplastics as small as 1 mm
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As well as capturing visible plastic waste, including discarded ghost nets from commercial fishing operations, the prototype System 001/B can also trap microplastics as small as 1 mm
From discarded fishing nets to microplastics, the Ocean Cleanup's System 001/B has started capturing plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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From discarded fishing nets to microplastics, the Ocean Cleanup's System 001/B has started capturing plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Ocean Cleanup's prototype System 001/B has now started capturing plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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The Ocean Cleanup's prototype System 001/B has now started capturing plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Recent updates to the design include a parachute to slow the prototype down and modifications to prevent overtopping
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Recent updates to the design include a parachute to slow the prototype down and modifications to prevent overtopping

After years in development, the Ocean Cleanup arrived at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in October last year with the intention of gathering up plastic waste. Sadly, things didn't go precisely to plan and the huge U-shaped barrier had to be hauled in for repairs in January, 2019. It was fixed and redeployed in June, and subsequently had a parachute attached to it. And today the non-profit is reporting that its latest prototype is successfully capturing plastic debris.

The basic idea for the operation was first presented at a TEDx conference in October, 2012, by the Ocean Cleanup's founder and CEO Boyan Slat. It was envisioned that a huge barrier would be deployed at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and would essentially harvest floating plastic waste for processing on shore.

And that's more or less what's been deployed. After a year of testing, the self-contained prototype System 001/B has started passively gathering plastic debris. After solving the problem of speed differences between the system and the plastic waste by installing a parachute to slow the barrier down, the project's engineers then modified the cork line to minimize overtopping. And now it's operating as expected.

After a year of testing, the self-contained prototype System 001/B has started passively collecting plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
After a year of testing, the self-contained prototype System 001/B has started passively collecting plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

As well as collecting plastic waste that's visible, including huge abandoned nets from commercial fishing operations, the system can also capture microplastics as small as 1 mm.

"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," said Slat. "Our team has remained steadfast in its determination to solve immense technical challenges to arrive at this point. Though we still have much more work to do, I am eternally grateful for the team’s commitment and dedication to the mission and look forward to continuing to the next phase of development."

The Ocean Cleanup will now start work on designing, building and testing System 002 – a full scale cleanup system that can collect more plastic waste, and keep it within its concentrated collection area for longer. Once the project becomes fully operational, waste collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be returned to shore for recycling.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

13 comments
JanZboril
What happens in a storm event/big waves to all the debris before it is collected in the ship.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Glad they are addressing the floating trash. Kudos to these guys. Now what about the stuff that sinks, piling up on the ocean floor? Then, what about the soluble pollutants? The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is the popular cause simply because its apparent. And sadly, but a symptom of the larger tragedy.
paul314
Good for them, for persisting in the face of obstacles. Saving the planet's species isn't going to happen in a single news cycle.
BrianK56
It would be great to have monthly updates on the amounts of plastic that has been collected.
ljaques
I'm glad to see them finally collecting, but still wish there were a plastic processing factory ship on the waters which would clear up each gyre in weeks-to-months instead. Also, no countries have agreed to stop their own massive sources of the trash in their own rivers. That's truly sad.
Tim Rivers
Now if they could get the biggest polluters China and India to stop dumping in the ocean not to mention African countries then they might succeed. Virtually none comes from North America or Europe.
mystixa
" in the unforgivable environment" Really? What did the ocean do to you? :p Try 'unforgiving'.
mystixa
"What happens in a storm event/big waves to all the debris before it is collected in the ship." Plastic that was in the ocean... remains in the ocean.
Tony Morris
90% of oceanic plastic waste comes from 10 rivers. Perhaps they should park the cleanup systems in the mouths of those rivers? https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/90-of-plastic-polluting-our-oceans-comes-from-just-10-rivers/
Hendrik Ehlers
I guess the most shocking news in this aspect is that the major source of plastic pollution of the oceans are vessels dumping - and that it is not trivial to stop this sin. Congrats to the team for trying hard.