First Large-Scale Plastic Cleanup Launched
The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit organization, this week launched a $20 million system in the San Francisco Bay which is the first large-scale attempt to rid the oceans of plastic.
System 001 is being towed 450km (240 nautical miles) offshore for a two-week trial before continuing its journey toward the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 2,200km (1,200 nautical miles) offshore.
The 600m-long (2,000 ft) unmanned structure is designed to trap up to 68,000kg (150,000lbs) of plastic during the boom’s first year at sea. Within five years, with the creation of dozens more booms, the organization hopes to clean half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The device is propelled by the wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris which will be funnelled to the centre of the system. Moving slightly faster than the plastic, the system will act like a giant Pac-Man, skimming the surface of the ocean.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastics, is situated halfway between Hawaii and California, and contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, and covers an area twice the size of Texas.
The Ocean Cleanup anticipates that the first plastic will be collected and returned to land within six months after deployment – the first large-scale collection of free-floating plastic from the ocean. After returning the plastic to land, The Ocean Cleanup plans to recycle the material into products and use the proceeds to help fund the cleanup operations.
Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, said: '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.'
He added: 'The launch is an important milestone, but the real celebration will come once the first plastic returns to shore. For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans; from this day onwards, we’re taking it back out again.'
The Ocean Cleanup’s ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans by at least 90 per cent by 2040.