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
BA Environmental Studies
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
OCT 20, 2022
Plants & Animals
Using Drones with Heat-Sensing Cameras to Protect Sea Turtle Nests
OCT 20, 2022
Using Drones with Heat-Sensing Cameras to Protect Sea Turtle Nests
Sea turtles are well known for their curious way of producing offspring: once eggs are laid on a beach, the baby turtles ...
OCT 23, 2022
Plants & Animals
How Plants Respond to Smoke, and How it Could Affect Farming in the Future
OCT 23, 2022
How Plants Respond to Smoke, and How it Could Affect Farming in the Future
Wildfires have been blazing around the world, and in the past few years, their frequency and intensity have only increas ...
OCT 26, 2022
Plants & Animals
Lowering the Carbon Footprint of Pumpkin Farming
OCT 26, 2022
Lowering the Carbon Footprint of Pumpkin Farming
The most ubiquitous symbol of Halloween? A bright orange pumpkin. Whether you’re carving them, decorating them, or ...
NOV 11, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Large "Planet Killer" Asteroid Found Hidden Within Sun's Glare
NOV 11, 2022
Large "Planet Killer" Asteroid Found Hidden Within Sun's Glare
In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, an international team of researchers led by the Carnegie Insti ...
NOV 05, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Rare Earth Elements Created in Neutron Star Mergers
NOV 05, 2022
Rare Earth Elements Created in Neutron Star Mergers
In a recent paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers present the first ever detection of rare Earth ele ...
DEC 01, 2022
Microbiology
Unusual Fungi - Ancient Creatures on Their Own Branch of Evolution
DEC 01, 2022
Unusual Fungi - Ancient Creatures on Their Own Branch of Evolution
This exotic new group of fungi includes these odd "earth tongue" organisms / (Photo: Alan Rockefeller, CC-BY-SA-4.0)
Loading Comments...