Let’s get rid of the plastic soup!
My previous article described the existence of country-sized ‘islands’ that are completely made out of rubbish. While most of us didn’t even realize its presence, in the end, we all contributed to the build-up.
‘Why don’t we just clean it up?‘ is what the then 16-year old Boyan Slat (CEO of the Ocean Cleanup) thought while seeing more plastic items than fish during a diving trip. And his thought combined with his perseverance results in the biggest ocean cleanup we’ve ever seen!
It can not be done
Boyan Slat heard that sentence a lot. For example, Charles Moore, the discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, mentioned it would take thousands of years to gather al the plastic! Why? Because the garbage spreads out over millions of square kilometers, all across the oceans (see the image below). Imagine the tremendous emission of carbon dioxide when using regular boats to chase the waste. The use of nets could entangle aquatic life. What about storms and waves that occur at open waters? And what to do with all the gathered plastics? Above all, the plan cost billions and is, therefore, not profitable. It cannot be done.
Obviously, it would take a tremendous amount of effort to chase the plastic around. Winds, waves, and currents scatter the waste all across the oceanic parts of our globe. As a manner of fact, Boyan used this as an opportunity instead of a problem. ‘Why move through the water, while the water moves by itself?‘. The idea of a passive concentration system was born! It took Boyan quite some time and effort to achieve his goals. Eventually, enough funds were generated to form a team. All thanks to a TED talk going viral!
The Ocean Cleanup
It still took years of experiments, research, and building prototypes for the team to accomplish the model they build now. But the outcome tackles all the arisen problems. The design is fully autonomous and energy neutral. It doesn’t entangle any aquatic life and it can endure severe weather. The solution to all these problems is a 600-meter long, U-shaped, buoyant floater connected to a 3-meter skirt underneath the surface. The 2-minute video explains the technique:
September 8, 2018
A historic day for the Ocean Cleanup Team (and the rest of the World!). After years of effort, their ‘System 001’ was released from the San Fransico Bay. In fact, it is currently traveling towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, autonomously. And the most exciting part? The team plans to launch a fleet of 60 systems! On the condition that this final trial goes according to plan. The expectation is that these designs will clean the GPGP with 50% in 5 years time. The journey of the Ocean Cleanup and their ‘System 001’ can be followed via their website or social media channels.
So remember: something that could not be done is being done. And it only took one person to make this difference.