Environment

Ocean Cleanup project to test its first trash-catching barriers in Dutch waters

Ocean Cleanup project to test ...
The first open water testing of the floating barriers designed to capture plastic waste is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016
The first open water testing of the floating barriers designed to capture plastic waste is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016
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The installation follows computer modelling and scale model testing in controlled environments
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The installation follows computer modelling and scale model testing in controlled environments
The first open water testing of the floating barriers is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016 in the North Sea, 23 km (14.3 mi) off the coast of the Netherlands
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The first open water testing of the floating barriers is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016 in the North Sea, 23 km (14.3 mi) off the coast of the Netherlands
The first open water testing of the floating barriers designed to capture plastic waste is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016
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The first open water testing of the floating barriers designed to capture plastic waste is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016
By using this natural system of circular ocean currents to push plastic waste into long floating arms and onwards into a central collection point, Slat's system would be highly energy efficient
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By using this natural system of circular ocean currents to push plastic waste into long floating arms and onwards into a central collection point, Slat's system would be highly energy efficient
The installation follows computer modelling and scale model testing in controlled environments
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The installation follows computer modelling and scale model testing in controlled environments

Scooping up all the plastic waste in the world's oceans would be a massive undertaking given that scientists estimate there's around 5 trillion pieces of it currently bobbing about in the water. But the Ocean Cleanup project believes it is up to the challenge and has today announced plans for the first real-world test of its rubbish collection barriers off the coast of The Netherlands.

The Ocean Cleanup project is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, who dreamt up the concept while studying aerospace engineering at Delft University. Rather than chasing after the rubbish, Slat's plan is to have the the oceans' natural gyres, or rotating currents, do the work for him.

By using this natural system of circular ocean currents to push plastic waste into long floating arms and onwards into a central collection point, Slat's system would be highly energy efficient. He claims that it would cut the time required to clean up the oceans from millennia to mere years, and a positive feasibility study and US$2.1 million crowdfunding phase have since given him impetus to put his plan into action.

The first open water testing of the floating barriers is set to take place in the second quarter of 2016 in the North Sea, 23 km (14.3 mi) off the coast of the Netherlands. The 100-meter (330-ft) long installation follows computer modelling and scale model testing in controlled environments, and now the team says it is time to put it to work in real oceanic conditions.

By using this natural system of circular ocean currents to push plastic waste into long floating arms and onwards into a central collection point, Slat's system would be highly energy efficient
By using this natural system of circular ocean currents to push plastic waste into long floating arms and onwards into a central collection point, Slat's system would be highly energy efficient

The team will have a particular focus on the effects of waves and currents, using cameras and sensors to monitor the loads on the system and motion of the barrier. It's hopes that the North Sea test will help the team's engineers better plan for a larger pilot project in the Korea Strait, which was originally slated for the second quarter of 2016 but has now been pushed back to the second half of the year to make use of the North Sea test results.

This next pilot will see a barrier stretch 2,000 m (6,600 ft) off the coast of Tsushima Island between Japan and South Korea, where plastic pollution is of particular concern. This and further tests in the following years will aid the Ocean Cleanup's progress toward its ultimate objective, deployment of a large-scale system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2020.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup

11 comments
Bruce H. Anderson
Those who have looked at Boyan Slat's dream with a somewhat jaundiced eye will be very interested in the real-world results.
ikarus342000
I wish them all the success in the world.
Len Simpson
Cruise ships are the 1st, 2nd & 3rd primary sources of ocean pollution.
Magrim
Yeah if you think about it he's doing this on a budget so tiny and insignificant compare to yearly government expenditures its astounding. I wish I would of gotten in on the crowdfunding.
Viator
The primary source of trash in the oceans is the third world countries that lack to prosperity to afford trash pick-up and disposal services. In Nepal and India for instance, the waterways are considered a goddess and therefore cannot be harmed. Lo, and behold, the monsoon arrive and cleanses the river. Fishing vessels routinely discard oil drums and other trash instead of waiting for shore-side disposal.
MD
So basically a floating oil boom. Low cost simple, elegant. For narrow/shallow waterways, anchoring will allow optimal positioning with minimal interruption to shipping. Open sea, set them loose (huge multi-mile long booms) on the oceans with radar reflectors and GPS trackers. Sea anchor to ensure mouth (and cod-end) pointing into prevailing wind. (it's difficult to anchor in a mid-ocean gyrus) Periodic reorientation and emptying/maintenance, should clear up the oceans in only a few decades). Where there's a will, there is a naysayer. Will it work, probably not (entirely) is it cost effective, most probably. First, get everyone (govt, and public) to stop landfilling and dumping plastic, recycle or incinerate (energy recovery) it.
DFrancis
For those who would have liked to have contributed to the crowdfunding, worry not, because the Ocean Cleanup website has a page where you can donate any amount, selecting from a variety of means (PayPal, credit card, etc.) in either euros or US dollars. I wish Slat and his team the best possible success in cleaning our filthy oceans. What concerns me, though, is that it might encourage a more lax attitude among the polluters if they know there is a means to remove their rubbish.
oldguy
I was going to write that this is a really wonderful idea and that I hope it works. We have enough garbage floating in the worlds oceans. But then I read the reply about cruise ships. Is this really true? I have taken a couple of cruises and they were really terrific. Am I helping to pollute by vacationing on a cruise ship? I really hope this isnt true because Im a believer in leaving as small a footprint as possible when I travel. The Best of Luck to this great project, lets clean up the garbage and leave the world a cleaner place!
PatrickLauwers
Len Simpson, if you think they are the primary polluters I suggest you go and check some local rivers and see how much river ends up in the ocean on a daily basis from there...
Padaung
Len Simpson, do you actually have any evidence backing up your claim that cruise ships are the 1st, 2nd & 3rd primary sources of ocean pollution? I worked at sea for a number of years on cruise ships for a number of different cruise lines. They all had incredibly strict garbage disposal policies and notices were displayed all around crew areas explaining disposal of anything overboard was forbidden. Ultimately, the Captain is responsible for anything coming from their vessel and will loose their job if the vessel they are in charge of is caught disposing of items illegally overboard, along with the cruise line receiving heavy fines and a PR backlash. I'm sure in decades gone by that disposing of all sorts of waste overboard was rife but in my experience this no longer occurs in the cruise industry.