By Contributing Writer Caroline Quirk
Just under a month ago one of the Ocean Cleanup projects had its first successful plastic pick up from the high seas. The focus of this project is to lessen the amount of trash and pollution in the ocean, specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris (litter) in the North Pacific Ocean. The patch is three times the size of France, consisting of debris from the nearby shores, as well as pollution and liter from boats and shipping vessels.
Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization that develops advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. Its first attempt mission to test their first cleanup system, System 001, was concluded unsuccessful January 17, 2019. Since then Ocean Cleanup has been in the works for a redesign that could effectively retain plastic.
In order to have a system that effectively collects and retains plastic of all shapes and sized the system would need to move through the plastic at a consistent speed. This is a key part that was missing from their first model. The team then modified System 001 to create System 001/B.
System 001/B set sail just five months after the return of System 001. Its design was as a modular platform, 2,000 feet-long, to allow them to test multiple options for retaining different plastics.
Many changes were made to the new model including buoys to speed up the system, slowing down the system with a parachute sea anchor and different varieties of an underwater skirt. Together these all allow the system to reorient itself and maintain a sufficient relative speed while not overtopping.
System 001/B has a 10-foot screen which can trap even microplastics without disrupting marine life. It is also equipped with transmitters and sensors so that it can communicate with vessels that will collect the gathered garbage every few months.
The plastic gathered will be brought to shore in December 2019 for proper recycling. The Ocean Cleanup projects even believes that there could be a premium market for items that have been created from the debris reclaimed from the ocean.
The Cleanup Project plans to keep System 001/B in the ocean until the end of November 2019. Their long-term goal is to clean up 50% of the patch in five years and a 90% reduction by 2040. This will only be made possible with the creation of System 002.
System 002 will be built as a full-scale operation. Engineers and scientists will take the proven elements of System 001/B to make the cleanup system as successful as it can be to fulfill their goals. With this the ocean will start on its path toward recovery.