The Ocean Cleanup System – Cleaning Up Plastic

The Ocean Cleanup system was invented by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat. He created a long floating clean up system to collect the rubbish by using the power of currents. There are 5 main currents located in the world seas: the subtropical gyres, also known as the world’s “ocean garbage patches”.

The principle behind it is simple. Create a coastline where there are none. Concentrate plastic and take it out. This system consists of a 600m long floater and a 3m deep skirt attached below. The floater provides buoyancy to this system and prevents plastic from flowing over it. While the skirt prevents smaller particles from escaping underneath. As the impentrable skirt creates a downward flow, marine life can safely pass beneath it.

How the system works

The system takes advantage of 3 natural oceanic forces, winds, waves and currents. Both the plastic and system are being carried by the current. However wind and waves propel the system only as the floater partly sticks above the surface, while plastic is primarly just beneath it. This system thus moves faster than the plastic allowing the plastic to be captured. The skirt extends deeper in the middle of the system than on the outer edges. As the current applies pressure on the skirt, the system naturally adopts a U shape which enables it to move plastic to it’s centre, like a funnel. The drag generated by this skirt also acts as a stabilising force, allowing this system to re-orientate itself when the wind changes direction. And because the system, is free-flowing like the plastic, it automatically drifts to the areas with the highest plastic concentration.

Fitted with solar powered lights, anti-collisions systems, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the system actively communicates it’s postion at all times., continuously gathering performence data. Periodically a support vessel comes by to take out the concentrated plastic like a rubbish truck of the ocean. The plastic is then transported to the land, recycled and made into durable products. The first of the fleet systems has been deployed with an expected 60 more systems. Once deployed, the fleet is expected to clean up 50% of the great Pacific garbage patch every 5 years.

The Launch

The Ocean Cleanup launced it’s first system on September 8 2018 from San Francisco Bay into the North Pacific.

Check out the video below for an update on how the first deployment is going:

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