Ocean Cleaning Device Successfully Catches Plastic Waste In The Pacific

A floating device that vacuums up plastic waste from the ocean passed its first test recently when it successfully collected debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, CNN reports:

“The Netherlands-based nonprofit the Ocean Cleanup says its latest prototype was able to capture and hold debris ranging in size from huge, abandoned fishing gear, known as ‘ghost nets,’ to tiny microplastics as small as 1 millimeter.
“‘Today, I am very proud to share with you that we are now catching plastics,’ Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat said at a news conference in Rotterdam.”

Ocean Cleanup has been trying to perfect the device for seven years. Here’s how it works:

“The Ocean Cleanup system is a U-shaped barrier with a net-like skirt that hangs below the surface of the water. It moves with the current and collects faster moving plastics as they float by. Fish and other animals will be able to swim beneath it.
“The new prototype added a parachute anchor to slow the system and increased the size of a cork line on top of the skirt to keep the plastic from washing over it.”
The idea of such a system was first proposed by Slat when he was only 18 as part of a TEDx talk. But implementing the project was slowed by setbacks in the initial design of the device, according to EcoWatch:
“Last year, a design flaw stopped the barrier from holding onto the plastic it captured and a 59-foot section of the barrier disconnected from the device. In its next attempt, the design team noticed that plastic was floating over the top of a cork line that was supposed to stabilize the system.”
But the latest version of the system appears to work exactly as Slat had imagined, leading him to remark:
“Our team has remained steadfast in its determination to solve immense technical challenges to arrive at this point. Though we still have much more work to do, I am eternally grateful for the team’s commitment and dedication to the mission and look forward to continuing to the next phase of development.”
Testing the device in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch helped build its credentials. The massive swath of ocean is twice the size of Texas and created by ocean currents teeming with current whirlpools which sweep plastic debris into the area. It is considered to be one of the biggest collections of plastic waste to be found in any body of water.
The next step for Ocean Cleanup is to build a new iteration, which has been dubbed System 002. It will feature several upgrades from the current version:

“(System 002) will endure rough ocean conditions and retain the collected plastic for long periods of time between collections. Once the plastic is collected, it will be returned to land and processed for recycling.”

Eventually, Slat and his team hope to build a fleet of the cleaning devices and reduce waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by half in five years’ time.


Featured Image Via YouTube Screenshot

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Andrew Bradford

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