Environment

Ocean Cleanup's supersized system proves its worth with "massive" haul

Ocean Cleanup's supersized sys...
Plastic waste is hauled onboard as part of the Ocean Cleanup's latest test
Plastic waste is hauled onboard as part of the Ocean Cleanup's latest test
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Plastic waste is hauled onboard as part of the Ocean Cleanup's latest test
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Plastic waste is hauled onboard as part of the Ocean Cleanup's latest test
An Ocean Cleanup Project team member sifts through the plastic waste
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An Ocean Cleanup Project team member sifts through the plastic waste
Underwater look at Jenny's haul
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Underwater look at Jenny's haul
The Ocean Cleanup team towed its System 002 out to the Great Pacific Garbage patch in August
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The Ocean Cleanup team towed its System 002 out to the Great Pacific Garbage patch in August
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Back in August, the Ocean Cleanup Project returned to the waters of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with a redesigned trash-collecting system that was its largest yet. This upsized approach appears to be paying some dividends, with System 002's final phase of testing hailed a success and marked by a "massive" haul of plastic waste.

The Ocean Cleanup Project first popped up back in 2013 with grand plans to clean plastic from the oceans using massive floating barriers, and the system has undergone a number of reinventions since.

The System 002, nicknamed Jenny, that was launched in August marked a significant departure from previous iterations, as it ditched a passive design in favor of active propulsion. This meant rather than relying on floating system that moved with the wind and the motion in the ocean, the horseshoe-shaped Jenny would be towed along by crewed vessels at either end.

Underwater look at Jenny's haul
Underwater look at Jenny's haul

The idea was to move Jenny through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at a steady speed of 1.5 knots, funneling plastic waste into a retention zone at the far end. With a length of 800 meters (2,640 ft), Jenny is also the biggest system deployed by the Ocean Cleanup Project, and its first large-scale system.

After towing Jenny out to the patch in mid-August, the Ocean Cleanup team kicked off a trial regime involving more than 70 separate tests to see if it is up to the job. The most recent of these took the form of a "full duration" test, designed to completely fill up Jenny's barriers over the course of six weeks. This final test of the system was completed over the weekend, and to great success, according to the team.

An Ocean Cleanup Project team member sifts through the plastic waste
An Ocean Cleanup Project team member sifts through the plastic waste

"It all worked!!! Massive load. We’ll try to get the footage to land ASAP to share," tweeted Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat.

The team is still processing its catch so we can expect more information to be forthcoming on how much Jenny is capable of cleaning, but one thing is clear it will take many Jennies to put a dent in the issue. Millions of metric tons of plastic waste wash into the ocean each year, and many have doubts about the capacity of trash-catching barriers to tackle the problem, and whether these efforts might do more harm than good.

For its part, the Ocean Cleanup crew is well aware of this, and is simultaneously endeavoring to prevent plastic waste entering the ocean through a river-based collection system called "The Interceptor." It still sees the accumulated waste in the ocean as a major problem that needs solving, as the longer it remains swirling about in the seas the more of it breaks down into problematic microplastics that are difficult to track and pose all sorts of problems to the environment.

You can check out some raw footage of the team's latest catch in the video below.

Record Catch #shorts

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

View gallery - 4 images
11 comments
11 comments
SteveMc
If an oil tanker is holed and pouring millions of gallons of oil into the sea, do you try cleaning up the spilled oil while the tanker is still holed and leaking it’s contents? You seal the leak first, right?
This looks great but it’s taken six weeks to collect what we’re still putting back into the ocean probably every second of every day, right? Kinda like blowing out a match half an hour after you lit it.
I understand that we need to remove what’s already in the seas but if we’re pouring in millions of metric tonnes every year at the moment, surely this amazing, talented group should be solely concentrating on their river project? Once that is solved, then clean up the seas.
pbethel
Amazing lack of marine growth on that haul.
In forty plus years of combing Southeast Alaska beaches I never saw flotsam so clean of growth.
tekteam26
What these ships also need to have is a thermal depolymerization unit onboard so that they can heat these plastics and convert them to a liquid form or even into syngas so that the waste plastics can either be used as a fuel or as feedstock for new manufacturing. This form of recycling would reduce the use of petrochemicals in industry as well as cleaning up the oceans. Thermal depolymerization could also be used to reduce the amount of plastics filling up our landfills as well.
Dan
Everything sold in plastic should have a disposal tax attached and those taxes should be matched by those producing the plastic.
Aross
An atom in the bucket is all I see. Until we stop the pigs of humanity from dropping anything they don't want or need anymore at their ass this is a waste of time. We can't even get people to drop their used covid masks, water bottle etc. into garbage bins what is the point in expending huge efforts to gather what is already in the ocean.
Before cleaning up we need to ban all plastics that can be replaced by cleaner recyclable/reusable non plastic materials. That in and of itself will contribute to the reduction of all forms of pollution.
There is no mention of the carbon foot print/pollution this effort is creating.
akarp
@SteveMc: Do we stop treating sewage/water treatment, stop street sweepers, and stop roadside litter collection...and wait until we invent a food that allows humans to defecate non-hazardous waste, or educate people 'enough' to stop littering?? We will never be able to 'plug' the hole of waste (plastic and otherwise) pouring into our oceans. We will be able to reduce this amount for sure...but never fully stop it. So while working to reduce the stream of waste, we should also invent and build cleanup infrastructure. Why only work on one problem at a time?
jerryd
Way too costly. Get 2 of those sailing drones with wing sails or better, wind turbines, to tow the catchment. Or a catamaran with outriggers for the catchment and solar and WT/wing sail. But manned makes the costs 5-10x as much.
So other than collecting the catch, repair, mothership caring for say 10-30 catchers, no real need for people to be stuck rolling back and forth endlessly is no fun. BTDT
And coastal catchers can just bring it back to port.
I do agree that is very clean flotsam. As an ocean sailor, maintainer of things that float for 35 yrs, in 4 months those should be covered in shellfish, barnacles, algae on any part under water .
mikewax
yeah before you post, ask yourself this question: could i have said the same thing to Henry Ford and his first experiments with an assembly line?
aksdad
It's a worthy effort but let's clarify that most of the waste they collected, if not all of it, came from ships. Notice the fishing nets and buoys. Stuff washes overboard all the time in heavy seas. This is not stuff that was dumped into waterways and oceans on purpose or ended up there because of poor or non-existent waste management. Almost all the mismanaged waste, plastic or otherwise, comes from poor countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Western countries banned dumping into waterways decades ago and have well managed waste processing systems. So banning disposable plastic bags or straws in, say, California has almost no effect on ocean plastic because only a minuscule amount discarded on beaches by careless litterbugs ended up in the oceans before the ban. Better to punish the litterbugs than the millions who benefit from inexpensive, low-environmental impact plastic bags and plastic straws.
mystixa
"You seal the leak first, right?"
No you do both at the same time. And that holds true for the plastic cleanup as well. Which is in fact what they are already doing. They've had their Interceptors working in major rivers for a few years now. They did this after making a massive survey of plastic point sources and prioritizing the placement of Interceptors on the some of the highest offenders, where they could get permission to operate.

"Way too costly."
They're doing it all on donations. While they tried to do it passively, they got criticized for that taking too long to have the needed results.

Feel free if you feel like you have the marine and mechanical engineering chops to pull it off, to work for them and submit your designs. This would be much more useful than trying to knock down what they've already studied, designed, built, and operated to good result.
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