Pacific Ocean trials of a young Dutch inventor’s system to clear plastic waste from the seas started this weekend, 240 nautical miles offshore from San Fransisco.
The system, devised by 24-year-old Boyan Slat while he was a student at Delft University, consists of a 600 metre-long floating curved boom which collects and holds waste until it can be collected.
The boom has a three metre skirt attached underneath it to catch waste floating just below the surface.
The start of the full sea trial follows hundreds of scale-model tests, a series of prototypes, research expeditions and trials involving a shorter boom in the North Sea.
If the two-week trial is successful, the boom will be towed towards what has become know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 1,200 nautical miles offshore to start the clean up.
‘Today’s launch is an important milestone, but the real celebration will come once the first plastic returns to shore. For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans; from that day onwards, we’re taking it back out again,’ Slat said in a statement on Saturday.
Slat raised the first $2m to to fund his ambitious plan via crowdfunding in 2014. Today the OceanCleanup has a staff of 70 and counts Dutch marine services group Boskalis and Denmark’s shipping giant Maersk among its backers.
If the current trial is successful, and if the funding is available, The Ocean Cleanup aims to scale up to a fleet of approximately 60 systems focused on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the next two years.
‘The system is designed to be propelled by wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris in front of it,’ the organisation says. ‘Moving slightly faster than the plastic, the system will act like a giant Pac-Man, skimming the surface of the ocean.’
The Ocean Cleanup projects that the full fleet can remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years’ time.
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