Environment

Ocean Cleanup's plastic-catching barriers stand tall in Pacific tow tests

Ocean Cleanup's plastic-catchi...
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under testing in the Pacific
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under testing in the Pacific
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under construction
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under construction
The hanging screen of The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier
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The hanging screen of The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under construction
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under construction
The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barrier
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The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barrier
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under testing in the Pacific
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under testing in the Pacific
The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barrier
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The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barrier
The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under testing in the Pacific
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The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier under testing in the Pacific
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The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barriers, continuing to assemble the pieces at its base before towing it some 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 km) out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And the team is increasingly confident that it can make the journey, with the latest testing indicating that can stand up to stormy ocean conditions.

Now around five years in the making, the objective of the Ocean Cleanup Project is to clean up the giant pile of floating waste known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by using passive floating barriers and the ocean's gyres. These natural current systems would sweep the plastic into the system's 600-meter long (2,000 ft) open arms and, the team hopes, cleanup half the patch within five years of deployment.

The Ocean Cleanup Project has spent the past few years developing the system, carrying out aerial surveys of the patch and testing a prototype in the Netherlands. Since moving into the former Alameda Naval Air Station in San Francisco in February it has looked to ramp things up, with its first tests designed to explore the system's durability in the waters of the Pacific.

Initially this meant a so-called tow test, where a 120-meter (400 ft) long piece was towed behind a boat in the open water around 50 nautical miles (92 km) from the Golden Gate Bridge, over a period of two weeks. The test piece included floater sections along with the three-meter deep test screen hanging below, and was towed at different speeds and orientations to ensure it encountered a range of wind, current and wave conditions.

The hanging screen of The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier
The hanging screen of The Ocean Cleanup Project's trash-collection barrier

Although a severe storm battered the barrier at one point, the team reports that it behaved "very well." The barrier that floats atop the ocean surface is design to bend and flex like an 'S' with the currents and performed as expected. Some minor issues were observed in the screen that hangs below, but the team says these had already been identified beforehand and work is already underway on an improved version for the full system.

The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barrier
The Ocean Cleanup Project is edging ever closer to the rollout of its first plastic collection barrier

All in all, the tests have the team "feeling more confident" with the design and that the full version, System 001, can withstand the conditions in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The next goal is to piece together the full 600-meter long system, with hopes of rolling it out before the end of September.

You can hear from Reijnder De Feijter, technical supervisor for the tow-test, in the video below.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup Project

Testing if we can tow our cleanup system | System 001 | Cleaning Oceans

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8 comments
CarolynFarstrider
What happens to fish caught within its 'arms'?
jd_dunerider
A 600 meter long net capturing half the plastic in 5 years? I'm not exactly a student of the maths, but that seems incredibly optomistic.
McDesign
You know, just verifying from the Wiki article, the amount is estimated at 100 Kg of trash per square kilometer - even sailing through it, it's not dense enough to even notice. One comparison has likened it to a couple stamps in a vacant lot.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Looks like the pipe the city used for my storm sewer.
BrianK56
And this is why there are engineers to figure out these things.
ljaques
Answers: No fish are caught because it isn't a net and the bottom and back are wide open. Mother Nature has seen fit to funnel trash to this site so it will be easy to clean up there; isn't that cool? The postage stamp is where the ocean funnels much of it. And engineers can't make slackers pay attention. ;) https://www.theoceancleanup.com/sources/ is a great resource. All the countries guilty of spewing the trash should be paying for: a) the cost of cleanup. and b) the cost of catching it at their rivers before it hits the oceans.
Derek Howe
I actually have seen the great pacific garbage patch, it was so densely packed, that Bigfoot and E.T. were walking on it.
S Michael
Now send the technology to the polluters. India, China, Bangladesh, Singapore and many more. Let them deploy it and pay for it.