The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing at an alarming rate — and it’s already three times the size of France. Fortunately, help is on the way: new images show that The Ocean Cleanup is building an innovative plastic-scooping system in Alameda, CA, and they’re planning to launch it as early as this summer.
There are around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic junk in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and The Ocean Cleanup, started by now-23-year-old Boyan Slat, is much closer to deploying its technology to tackle the dilemma. The group’s Road to the Cleanup timeline reveals that, earlier this month, the crew finished “the first weld of two floater sections” — the official start of the assembly process. Days later, the organization shared another image of what they called great progress.
Fast Company reported that a massive floating tube, around 2,000 feet long, will serve as a U-shaped barrier to help trap plastic. It’s flexible enough to bend with ocean waves and is made of HDPE plastic — the same material that the system aims to collect, according to ABC7 News. A nylon screen attached to the tube will catch plastic beneath the waves — but not fish, as it isn’t a net. Big anchors, a concept unveiled by Slat in a presentation last year, will essentially tether the system not to the seabed, but to a deep water layer.
When might we be able to see the system in action? The Road to the Cleanup timeline estimates launch will happen in the middle of this year. The first piece of the system, which is about as long as a football field, will be towed out into the ocean for tests in a few weeks. The piece will be connected to the larger system following the local tow test, and a final test 200 miles offshore will occur after assembly is finished. It will take three weeks for the system to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and The Ocean Cleanup could get there in August if everything goes as planned.
Plastic they gather could be transformed into various products — clothing, for example — and the Ocean Cleanup could have a shipment of plastic in late fall.
Images via The Ocean Cleanup