Revolutionary Ocean Cleanup project could make the ocean self-cleaning

June 10, 2015 0 By Amanda Giasson

A young Dutch man has come up with an innovative plan to rid the ocean of plastic pollution.

Boyan Slat, a 20-year old from the Netherlands, has come up with an ambitious plan and is leading one of the most ingenious ocean cleanup efforts the world has ever seen, which, if successful, would reduce the amount of plastic debris floating in the Pacific Ocean by half within ten years.

The plan could rid the ocean of hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic garbage.

According to the About Us section on the projects official website, “The Ocean Cleanup develops technologies to extract, prevent, and intercept plastic pollution.” The goal of this project is to help the world fight against the ever-growing oceanic plastic pollution problem “by initiating the largest cleanup in history.”

It is estimated that each year 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans. The Ocean Cleanup claims that one of its 62-mile cleaning mechanics can gather up 150 million pounds of trash in a decade, which would decrease the amount of garbage in the Pacific by 42%.

The Ocean Cleanup provides the ocean with a self-cleaning system and is safe for wildlife.

The reason why Slat’s plan is so ingenious is it not only involves using a detritus-catching apparatus, a floating barrier that will make gathering and disposing of the waste easy, but the ocean’s wildlife will not be harmed in the process.

This is made possible because the enormous floating barriers that are being used are not nets that can entangle sea life. They are large V-shaped buffers that are anchored by floating booms. The plan is to have the barrier system work off the world’s gyres. A gyre is a large system of rotating ocean currents that have been formed by global wind patterns and other forces that result from the Earth’s rotation. These tidal flows naturally direct the trash in the ocean to five central points.

According to Charles Moore, a researcher who discovered the massive collection of trash in the Pacific Ocean that he called the Pacific’s “garbage dump”, as much as 7.25 million tons of plastic is floating in the gyres, which, to put into better perspective, is equal to 1,000 Eiffel Towers. At the present rate, Moore says it would take a minimum of 79,000 years to clean up.

By installing these barriers around the gyres, the ocean currents will naturally carry the plastic waste into the barriers. However, while the current and sea life will travel safely under the booms, the buoyant plastic is funneled above and gathers on the water’s surface along the barriers, making it easy to be captured and to dispose of it.

The Ocean Cleanup began as a crowdfunding campaign in 2014 and raised an impressive $2 million in 98 days. Slat currently leads a team of 100 people including oceanographers, translators, naval engineers, designers, etc. The team is planning to station its first barrier near Tsushima, a Japanese island located between Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture and South Korea. It will be 6,500 feet wide and is considered to be the longest floating structure to ever be put in the ocean.