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A Dutch non-profit organization announced they were working on advanced technologies in an attempt to remove the plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The Ocean Cleanup launched in September the cleanup system called “System 001” from the San Francisco Bay. On October 16, the system reached a location 240 nautical miles offshore, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, to begin the operation on its removal.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastic pollution. It contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, covering an area twice the size of Texas.

How The Ocean Cleanup System 001 works

The system includes a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. The floater gives buoyancy to the entire system and prevents plastic from flowing over it. The skirt prevents debris from escaping underneath.

Although the plastic and the system are carried by the current, wind and waves propel only the system. The floater just sits above the water surface and the plastic is just beneath it. This way, the system moves faster than the plastic so it can capture the plastic.

Basically, the U-shape of the system and the screen below allow the plastic to accumulate in the center of the system. Next, a vessel will remove the accumulated plastic every few months. The plastic will then be processed on land and sorted for recycling.

The vessel Maersk Launcher towed the System 001 from the San Francisco Bay. As for the timeline, the guys and gals behind the project expect the system to collect and return to land the first plastic within six months after deployment.

Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, stated: “I am incredibly grateful for the tremendous amount of support we have received over the past few years from people around the world, that has allowed us to develop, test, and launch a system with the potential to begin to mitigate this ecological disaster. This makes me confident that, if we manage to make the technology work, the cleanup will happen.”

The secondary objective

In addition to the main objective, proving the technology’s efficiency and beginning with the cleanup, there is also another goal. It is to gather performance data in order to improve the design of the system for future deployments.

To this end, the system comes with solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras, and navigation lights. All this tech allows communication of the System 001’s position to the passing marine traffic. Moreover, it provides detailed monitoring of the system and the environment.

Should the system prove successful, it could rise up to a fleet of around 60 systems dedicated to cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the course of the next two years.


YouTube: The Ocean Cleanup System – How Does It Work?

Photo credit: All material used is owned by The Ocean Cleanup and was made available as part of their press kit.

Sead Fadilpasic

Freelance writer / journalist / blogger. Tech enthusiast and gadget freak. Guitarist. Previously Al Jazeera journalist.