Environment

Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-catching prototype takes to the angry Dutch seas

Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-...
The floating barrier may collect some trash in the North Sea, that's not really the name of the game
The floating barrier may collect some trash in the North Sea, that's not really the name of the game
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The floating barrier may collect some trash in the North Sea, that's not really the name of the game
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The floating barrier may collect some trash in the North Sea, that's not really the name of the game
The North Sea prototype ahead of deployment
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The North Sea prototype ahead of deployment
 The Ocean Cleanup Project has successfully deployed its first prototype off the coast of the Netherlands
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 The Ocean Cleanup Project has successfully deployed its first prototype off the coast of the Netherlands
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash barrier was successfully deployed off the coast of the Netherlands
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash barrier was successfully deployed off the coast of the Netherlands
Boyan Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines
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Boyan Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines
Boyan Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines
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Boyan Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines
Boyan Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines
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Boyan Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines

Its been a few years since Boyan Slat first revealed his bold concept to clean up the world's oceans, and now we're set to see how his trash-catching barriers fare in the real world. The Dutch entrepreneur's Ocean Cleanup Project has successfully deployed its debut prototype off the coast of the Netherlands, which will serve as a first test-case ahead of a much larger installation planned to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2020.

Slat's garbage-collecting barriers have been described as artificial coastlines. They are basically long floating arms that rely on the ocean's natural currents to gather up plastic waste. Since he first introduced the concept, the Ocean Cleanup Project has raised US$2.1 million in crowdfunding and completed a feasibility study on its main target, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which some experts believe to be twice the size of Texas.

But before tackling this monumental vortex of ocean trash, the team needs to investigate how the barriers stand up under extreme conditions. Measuring 100 m (330 ft) long, the North Sea prototype is fitted with sensors that monitor its motion in the ocean, along with the physical loads that it is subjected to as waves rise and fall around it.

According to the Ocean Cleanup Project, a minor storm in this part of the world results in more violent sea conditions than an exceptionally heavy storm in the Pacific Ocean, which it says only occurs once every hundreds of years.

The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash barrier was successfully deployed off the coast of the Netherlands
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash barrier was successfully deployed off the coast of the Netherlands

While it may inadvertently collect some trash in the North Sea, that's not really the immediate objective. The data that the team gathers through its monitoring of the prototype will help the engineers prepare to build a full-scale system that can withstand the conditions of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And Slat says that the prototype surviving the test is no guarantee.

"This is a historic day on the path toward clean oceans," he says. "A successful outcome of this test should put us on track to deploy the first operational pilot system in late 2017. I estimate there is a 30 percent chance the system will break, but either way it will be a good test."

The operational system Slat refers to is a larger project spanning 2 km (1.2 mi) off the coast of Tsushima Island between Japan and South Korea. Here plastic waste is of particular concern to local governments with around 1 cubic meter (35 cu ft) of pollution for each of the more than 40,000 residents washing up on the island each year.

Other installations are planned in the years following, before a 100 km (62 mi) floating system is rolled out at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California. Slat says that the system could make it possible to cut the time required to clean up the world's oceans from millennia to mere years.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup Project

2 comments
habakak
Hundreds of these should be setup at the points where the garbage enters the ocean. It might be hard to track a lot of it down, but it can be done. It can create a recycling program and the jobs that goes with it by deploying it locally. Stopping it from entering the ocean is much harder since it comes from millions of humans. Stopping it shortly after entering the ocean will be harder but more do-able.
Jugen
Is there an organisation collecting sea rubbish data?