Ocean Plastic Removal is Working

On December 12, 2019, the non-profit Ocean Cleanup succeeded in pulling out its first main load of plastic from the ocean.

Mission One took their first plastic catch onshore, in Vancouver Canada. The plastic trash will be transformed into sustainable products that will be sold to help fund the continuation of the cleanup operations. To confirm the origin of these future plastic products, we have worked with DNV GL, an international classification society, to verify plastic that is removed from the ocean.

The first mission in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was to confirm the concept of passive plastic collection by means of the natural forces of the ocean. After several ups and downs, in October 2019, they announced that the system was capturing and collecting plastic debris, from massive ghost nets down to microplastics one millimeter in size.

Since the launch of the first cleanup system, System 001, in September 2018, most items on the long list of deliverables for the technology could be checked one-by-one. Early reports showed, however, that System 001 was not retaining plastic as it should, and despite attempts to remedy this and successful design confirmations, the system suffered a fatigue fracture, resulting in a need to return the system to shore in January 2019

The engineering team performed a root cause analysis, redesigned a modified system, and, in record time, The Ocean Cleanup deployed the upgraded system, System 001/B, in June 2019. After several months of trialing modifications, the concept’s ability to capture plastic was confirmed.

The ocean is big. Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using conventional methods – vessels and nets – would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete. Their passive systems are estimated to remove 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage patch in just five years, and at a fraction of the cost.

The cleanup systems rely on natural forces to navigate the patches – a feature that also increases its survivability in the harsh ocean environment.

The combination of natural forces and a sea anchor create a drag, which makes the system move consistently slower than the plastic, while allowing the plastic to be captured.

Models show that a full-scale cleanup system roll-out could clean 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.

After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040.

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