The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organisation founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has just announced its largest clean-up project of all time. The organisation has big ambitions, with their sights set on removing 90% of floating ocean plastic by the year 2040, using their latest technologies.
Their latest technological development, System 002, more fondly known as ‘Jenny’ has collected and removed a staggering amount of plastic from the ocean, amounting to a total of over 28,659 kilograms (63,182 pounds), of which 9,014 kilograms (or 19,872 pounds) was removed in a single haul. Some of the items found include toilet seats, toothbrushes, laundry baskets, shoes, crates and discarded fishing gear, among many other things. All of the plastic collected will be sorted and then recycled, where it will then have the potential to be developed into a new product.
How does it work?
- Using computational modelling, the organisation predicts where the ‘garbage hotspots’ will be.
- Two large vessels move at a speed of around 1.5 knots with a net barrier which extends three metres below the surface (as pictured below).
- As water flows through the nets, the plastic gets pushed into the center towards what is known as the ‘retention zone’. This is where it is collected.
- One the route is completed, all the plastic which has been collected in the nets gets pulled on board the vessel. The plastic is then sorted and recycled.
Currently System 003 is being developed, which will span at a length of 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) and will be three times larger. Carbon emissions from this system and current System 002 will be offset and already the organisation is experimenting with low-carbon fuels, in order to work towards all-important carbon neutrality.
Looking to the future the organisation plans to deploy a fleet of ten systems, which is predicted to reduce the gyre by 50% every five years, helping to clean up large the swathes of plastic which currently reside there. However, to prevent even more plastic reaching the ocean, the organisation also wants to stop the problem at its source by running new ‘Interceptor projects’ which are planned to launch as soon as this year. This is planned to help prevent rubbish and plastic entering the ocean via rivers and other water channels.