Environment

Ocean Cleanup system installed and ready for work at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Ocean Cleanup Project has installed its first system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Ocean Cleanup Project has installed its first system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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The Ocean Cleanup Project has installed its first system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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The Ocean Cleanup Project has installed its first system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
It has been a long journey for the Ocean Cleanup Project
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It has been a long journey for the Ocean Cleanup Project
Researchers on the Ocean Cleanup Project say there are around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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Researchers on the Ocean Cleanup Project say there are around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
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The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years
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According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years
The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, finding the system performed well enough to continue the journey
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The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, finding the system performed well enough to continue the journey
According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years
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According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years
Dubbed System 001, the Ocean Cleanup Project's system is a U-shaped barrier  600 m (2,000 ft) long that sits on the ocean surface with a 3-m (10-ft) skirt dangling below
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Dubbed System 001, the Ocean Cleanup Project's system is a U-shaped barrier  600 m (2,000 ft) long that sits on the ocean surface with a 3-m (10-ft) skirt dangling below
The Ocean Cleanup Project's system undergoes testing in the Pacific
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's system undergoes testing in the Pacific
Dubbed System 001, the Ocean Cleanup Project's system is a U-shaped barrier  600 m (2,000 ft) long that sits on the ocean surface with a 3-m (10-ft) skirt dangling below
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Dubbed System 001, the Ocean Cleanup Project's system is a U-shaped barrier  600 m (2,000 ft) long that sits on the ocean surface with a 3-m (10-ft) skirt dangling below
According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the patch within five years
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According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the patch within five years
According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years
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According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years
The Ocean Cleanup Project's system undergoes testing in the Pacific
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's system undergoes testing in the Pacific
The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, finding the system performed well enough to continue the journey
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The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, finding the system performed well enough to continue the journey

It has been a long journey for the Ocean Cleanup Project, but after years of development and a 1,300-plus-mile trip through the open water, its first system is now installed at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. While this is a huge milestone for the team, the real work is just beginning for this ambitious mission to tackle the massive problem of marine pollution, which starts with the single biggest accumulation of ocean plastics in the world.

Exactly how much plastic is swirling around in this Great Pacific Garbage Patch is always going to be hard to determine, but the Ocean Cleanup Project has gone to some lengths to better understand it.

In 2016 it completed flyovers in the area using a C130 Hercules aircraft fitted with LiDAR and infrared sensors. This followed earlier research expeditions involving large fleets of vessels on the water. The data gathered throughout, combined with some cutting-edge science, has given the team a clearer picture of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch than ever before.

The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, finding the system performed well enough to continue the journey
The Ocean Cleanup Project completed a series of trials in the Pacific before continuing on to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, finding the system performed well enough to continue the journey

Researchers on the Ocean Cleanup Project say there are as many as 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic within the patch, weighing a total 80,000 metric tons, the same as 500 jumbo jets. Some 92 percent of it is larger objects, while eight percent is attributed to smaller fragmented pieces known as microplastics. These figures are somewhere between four and 16 times higher than previous estimates. All up, the patch is said to cover 1.6 million sq km (617,000 sq mi), an area three times the size of continental France.

So what can sticking a single floating barrier in the ocean do about this massive problem? Dubbed System 001, the U-shaped barrier is 600 m (2,000 ft) long and sits on the ocean surface with a 3-m (10-ft) skirt dangling below. As the system is propelled by ocean currents, surface waves and wind, it moves through the water faster than the plastic waste, which is propelled by the currents alone. This, at least in theory, will allow the system to sweep through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch scooping up waste like a giant Pac-Man before palming if off to a support vessel that carts it back to land.

According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the patch within five years
According to its modeling, the Ocean Cleanup Project says its barriers could remove half of the plastic in the patch within five years

The team conducted some final trials in the open Pacific en route to the Garbage Patch over two weeks, and found System 001 performed well enough to continue on its path. This included an ability to successfully hold its U-shape, and automatically follow shifts in wind direction to reorient itself as needed.

But there are elements of the system's performance the team simply can't test until it is put to work properly. For instance, it needs to harness the wind, waves and currents to move faster than the plastic it is trying to collect, and only when it is placed amongst the trash will the team know for certain if it can build up the required speeds.

With the system now installed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the team will soon get a better handle on how efficient it truly is in collecting plastic waste and its impacts on marine species. All going to plan, the team hopes to deploy a fleet of 60 systems over the coming two years, which, according to modeling by the Project, could remove half of the plastic in the patch within five years. The first plastics are expected to be returned to land within six months.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

8 comments
Derek Howe
Great pacific garbage patch is just like bigfoot, it doesn't exist. Is there garbage in the oceans, of course, is there a giant pile of it floating on the pacific, No.
Joshua Tulberg
Fingers crossed.
Kwetla
Call it what you want Derek Howe, but 80,000 tons of plastic rubbish seems like a garbage patch to me.
jerryd
Terrible design and made of way too much Plastic!!! First the skirt, float should be foam and netting at 10% of the weight and it should be powered by something that can actually move it. And in this case that is sails. And they should be hard airfoils that dynamically follow the wind or feather is too strong. The wave power is a sad joke By using 'Doors' on the end will make it spread out more doubling it's capture area. Obviously those who designed this has no real experience designing things for sea use or price. vs I have for 50 yrs now. We'd need 1k of these to really make a difference as so much out there. As a sailboat designer, builder, cruiser even back in the 80s any beach in the islands not regularly cleaned was 1-2' thick and 5-20' deep. Since then likely 10x more plastic has ended up in the seas. Derek Howe, Yes there is as I've had to sail though them. Certainly no one who goes to the shore not regularly maintained can see the results. We need 4 x/yr here in Florida to keep the mangroves, islands, etc free from being overrun by plastics. Our beaches are regularly maintained usually 1/day because of it washing up.
JustJim
We can see the Great Wall of China from space. Have yet to see a picture of the "great garbage patch" in the middle of the Pacific. Did see some great pictures of garbage in Pacific island harbors.
Johannes
Is it wall-to-wall plastic? No. But it doesn't take much effort to find out what this concentration of plastic waste in the Pacific is like. Do some farking homework folks!
BrianK56
I'm sure they will have pictures of their first catch to prove the garbage patch is there and to show the effectiveness of the device.
highlandboy
80,000 tonnes, 1600000 square kms 8 tonnes per 160 square kms 131kg per square km 0.131g per square metre That’s a lot of area to cover for very little pollution removed. Depending on the depth the plastic is churned to by wave action that’s a lot of volume of water to process.