The Ocean Cleanup has relaunched System 001 back into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located half way between Hawaii and California. This is the most concentrated area for ocean plastic and debris anywhere on the planet, home to more than one trillion particles weighing nearly 80,000 metric tons. The team created ‘System 001’ tasked with removing 90% of these plastics by 2040. To do so, led by CEO Boyan Slat, they’ve developed the passive drifting system designed to float across this heavily polluted region between Hawaii and California. It is currently patrolling ocean waters, continuing on its mission of cleaning our oceans after learning of some faults in the previous design.
In March the system returned to Hilo Harbour in Hawaii after it ran into complications including physical damage which resulted in an emergency exit from open waters. The structural issues were identified and the system has since been rebuilt about 2/3 of its initial size and shed its original stabilizer frames, now stretching a total of 400m. Electronics on board were reduced and simplified to allow for the accompanying changes. The more challenging issue that pressed the team was difficulties maintaining a consistent speed. Failure to do so meant plastic was able to escape and re-enter ocean waters. Two solutions were brought forward by the Ocean Cleanup team and will be seeing their initial tests in action soon.
The first idea, Plan A, has System 001 equipped with floating buoys. In theory, the floating buoys on the front of System 001 would carry momentum and tow the project forward, keeping the plastic within reach.
Plan B uses a parachute like sea anchor that is designed to slow down the floating pipes to so that plastic travels faster than the system, pushing into it instead of moving away. This method will be to deploy a 20-meter-diameter parachute that would slow the system down closer to the speed of the water. After testing in ocean waters, the team confirmed that the this sea anchor would perform as expected.
Design changes have become more modular hopefully allowing for the team to make changes at sea rather than taking the long trip back to land. The goal moving forwards is that the Ocean Cleanup will gain valuable insights over the next few months as to the feasibility of these solutions. Changes can then be made to appropriately address concerns.
The Ocean Cleanup is entering a new chapter in their journey to rid the ocean of trillions of plastic particles, and this launch will not be the last in the teams efforts to protect our environment. Join the Millennial Online Community for updates on sustainable developments and ethical companies helping to create a more sustainable future for the next generation. Members receive a weekly newsletter of hand picked sustainable developments and cleantech news from across the web.