Ocean Cleanup project evolves

A few years ago, young Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat came up with an innovative idea to rid the world’s oceans of its plastic garbage. Now his vision becomes true.

The Ocean Cleanup Array. Pictured is a floating barrier.

The Ocean Cleanup Array. Pictured is a floating barrier.

Slat founded the Ocean Cleanup organization back in 2013. His vision was to clean the ocean from hazardous plastic waste by using an innovative floating barrier. In 2014 he raised $ 2.2 million through crowdfunding, and hired a team of 100 scientists and engineers, to create his vision.

Major environmental problem

Floating plastic junk is a major environmental problem. For example, the Japanese island of Tsushima sees 12,000 cubic meters of garbage washed on its beaches.

Scientists recently discovered that the floating plastic at some point breaks up into smaller pieces, also known as micro-plastics. It is estimated that at least 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans. Two-thirds of that waste are between 0.33 millimeters and 4 millimeters in diameter. These micro-plastics contain poisonous chemicals, which can be harmful to life.

An innovative solution

Boyan came up with the idea to develop floating barriers which collect the plastic waste by using just the current of the sea. The collected junk can be used as an alternative energy source.

This year (2016) the Ocean Cleanup project will build a 2 kilometer long barrier off the coast of Tsushima. Claimed to be the longest structure in the sea in the world.

The goal is to place a 100 kilometer long structure in the ‘great Pacific garbage patch’, between California and Hawaii, which contains half of the plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean.

Stationary barrier using ocean’s current

What makes the Ocean Cleanup special? It is a stationary barrier which uses the current of the ocean to collect the plastic waste in a central point. ‘Why move through the oceans, if the oceans can move through you? Instead of going after the plastic using boats and nets, The Ocean Cleanup will use long floating barriers, using the natural movement of the ocean currents to passively concentrate the plastic itself ‘, the organization says.

Ocean Cleanup explains, ‘Virtually all of the current flows underneath these booms, taking away all (neutrally buoyant) sea life, preventing by-catch, while the lighter-than-water plastic collects in front of the floating barrier. The scalable array of floating barriers, attached to the seabed, is designed for large-magnitude deployment, covering millions of square kilometers without moving a centimeter.’

North Sea as a testbed

The Dutch government recently granted Ocean Cleanup a part of the North Sea, 23 kilometers off the coast of Scheveningen, to be used as a testbed for their barrier. They will monitor the installation’s behaviour in rough weather situations.