The Ocean Cleanup Is Successfully Recovering Plastic from the Pacific Ocean

The Dutch startup hopes to create a new prototype based on its recent efforts.
Chris Young
System 001/BThe Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch non-profit that is taking on the Pacific Garbage Patch, has started collecting plastic in its second attempt at the task.

Back in January, Ocean Cleanup founder Boyan Slat rubbished talk of the Ocean Cleanup being a failure.

Now, the company has proved that actions speak louder than words by sweeping up the first round of plastic, in its efforts to clean the ocean.


Second time's the charm

The Ocean Cleanup has announced that, after one year of testing, its latest ocean cleanup prototype system, System 001/B, has started to collect plastic debris from the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup Is Successfully Recovering Plastic from the Pacific Ocean
Source: The Ocean Cleanup

The startup announced in a press release today that its System 001/B, a self-contained system, is "using the natural forces of the ocean to passively catch and concentrate plastic, thereby confirming the most important principle behind the cleanup concept that was first presented by its founder and CEO, Boyan Slat, at a TEDx conference in October 2012."

System 001/B is the Ocean Cleanup’s second attempt at collecting garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch is an accumulation of plastic so large, that some are campaigning to have it officially recognized as a continent.

The prototype was launched from Vancouver in June. Not only is System 001/B capturing big pieces of plastic floating in the ocean, but it is also catching fishing nets.

Most impressively though, it is being shown to successfully recover microplastics as small as 1mm from the ocean — something the startup's engineers hadn't been anticipating.

“After beginning this journey seven years ago, this first year of testing in the unforgivable environment of the high seas strongly indicates that our vision is attainable and that the beginning of our mission to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, which has accumulated for decades, is within our sights,” said Boyan Slat.

The main changes

System 001/B has been trialing two principle modifications to the Ocean Cleanup system. Firstly, the system was slowed down with a parachute sea anchor.

This, according to the Dutch company, has fixed an issue that was stopping faster-moving plastic debris from floating into the system.

The Ocean Cleanup Is Successfully Recovering Plastic from the Pacific Ocean
Source: The Ocean Cleanup

Secondly, once the parachute anchor was implemented, "prominent plastic overtopping was observed."

A new cork line was added, which the company says, means that "minimal overtopping is now being observed, thus allowing the system to capture and concentrate [the] plastic."

What's next? 

As the Ocean Cleanup says, "there is still much work to do." The company will now use the learning from the prototype System 001/B to begin to design its newest system, called System 002.

This will be "a full scale cleanup system that is able to both endure and retain the collected plastic for long periods of time."

After further tests and modifications, the company hopes to create a system that can bring the plastic back to shore for recycling.

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