SEP 07, 2018 10:40 AM PDT

The Ocean Cleanup will finally launch tomorrow

Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup in 2013 when he was just 18 years old in his hometown of Delft, the Netherlands. The foundation aims to develop sustainable technologies capable of cleaning up plastic from the ocean. After working for the past five years on one such technology, a passive system that moves with ocean currents and uses the natural oceanic forces to catch and concentrate plastic, System 001 is finally ready to launch. Tomorrow.

But let’s back up a moment. Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? If no, take a minute to watch the video below so you can understand what the enormity of what we’re dealing with.

Because of ocean currents, plastics and other garbage and debris tend to concentrate in five large areas. The difficulty with this is that these areas are extremely vast, some, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, covering millions of square kilometers. Cleaning up such a large area using conventional means of vessels and nets just isn’t plausible because of cost and time. And that’s where System 001 comes in.

“Like a giant snake, made up of sections of tube, it's [System 001] 600m long and will float in a giant 'U' shape,” explains BBC News. “Beneath it a screen will hang down 3m. Because the plastic is floating just at or slightly below the surface, it only drifts with the force of the ocean currents. But because the collection system is also being shifted by the wind and waves, it should travel about one knot faster, shepherding the plastic into a dense mass.”

The hope is that this system will clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years, and maybe even a plastic-free ocean by 2050. But even Slat is hesitant to commit to specific statistics, given the uncertainty of many variables.

One of the aspects that System 001 has on its side is that much of the plastic in the Great Pacific patch is categorized as larger debris – meaning it has yet to be degraded into microplastics less than 5 mm large. This makes capturing and recovering the plastics more feasible, and also may allow for more recycling efforts of the collected plastics.

System 001. Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

"We feel we're in a great hurry," says Lonneke Holierhoek, the project's chief operating officer. "If we don't do it," Lonneke tells me, "all this plastic will start breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces - and the smaller the pieces are, the more harmful and the harder to extract from the marine environment."

System 001 is set to launch out of the San Francisco Bay in almost exactly 24 hours from now. You can follow the launch virtually here

Sources: BBC News, The Ocean Cleanup

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 02, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Scientists capture the seismic signals of the aurora borealis
AUG 02, 2020
Scientists capture the seismic signals of the aurora borealis
A team of seismologists reports capturing the aurora lights not on cameras, but on seismometers. They say that three 201 ...
AUG 12, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Are insects really going to die off for good?
AUG 12, 2020
Are insects really going to die off for good?
Warnings about an "insect apocalypse" have been making headlines in ecology and conservation news in the past ...
AUG 21, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Earth's Outer Core, in the Middle of a Laboratory
AUG 21, 2020
Earth's Outer Core, in the Middle of a Laboratory
Deep underneath our feet lies Earth's outer core, a fluid layer over two thousand kilometers (1,500 mi) in thickness ...
AUG 31, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Fossil-tree in the Andean Altiplano dates back 10 million years
AUG 31, 2020
Fossil-tree in the Andean Altiplano dates back 10 million years
The recent discovery of a fossil-tree in the Andean Altiplano dates back to 10 million years ago, say researchers. The d ...
SEP 12, 2020
Earth & The Environment
90% of protected wild areas are fragmented
SEP 12, 2020
90% of protected wild areas are fragmented
Are protected areas even helpful is they’re so disjointed that wildlife can’t move between them? That’ ...
NOV 02, 2020
Earth & The Environment
When does a new ecosystem begin?
NOV 02, 2020
When does a new ecosystem begin?
New research from scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) reports a novel method ...
Loading Comments...