Ocean Cleanup project by Dutch inventor finally launched

Ocean Cleanup project by Dutch inventor finally launched

You may remember Boyan Slat from headlines in 2014, when he invented a device to clean up the world’s oceans and raised a whopping two million US dollars via crowdfunding to scale up his project. And again in 2016, when he tested his prototype in the North Sea.

Well, the day has finally come for the Ocean Cleanup project to launch on a large scale and begin tackling the plastic soup between California and Hawaii.

How does the Ocean Cleanup system work?

The Ocean Cleanup system has taken many years to refine, after being just an idea in 2012 and now launching after 273 scale model tests, six prototypes tested at sea, mapping of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and several versions of the technology.

So how does it work? Well, the system is made up of a 600-metre long, floating barrier with a tapered skirt attached underneath, measuring three-metres deep. The barrier stops plastic flowing over it and the skirt traps plastic underneath so it can’t just float away under the surface.

Although in preliminary designs the system was anchored, it is now free-floating and makes use of natural forces such as current, wind and waves, allowing it to capture the plastic. The plastic then accumulates and is extracted every few months by a ship, which acts like a garbage truck.

The collected plastic is then sorted and recycled on land. In 2040, Ocean Cleanup forecasts the removal of 90 percent of ocean plastic, after fleets of systems are set up in every ocean gyre.

Ocean Cleanup launched

On Saturday, September 8, Slat’s device, a 600-metre long “plastic catcher” left San Francisco to journey on to the Pacific Ocean. It is there that the device will be put to work, cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is three times the size of France and weighs around 80 million kilos.

The Ocean Cleanup system, towed by a boat, will reach its destination in around three weeks after departure from the test location, which is around 450 kilometres offshore. At the test location, the system will be installed in a u-shape configuration and then monitored for around two weeks.

If all goes well, the Ocean Cleanup system should be at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in around five weeks. The system will be the first of 60 systems, which, once deployed, are expected to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years.

Take a look at other ways in which the Dutch are innovatively helping the environment.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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