A Giant Floating Machine is Now Cleaning Up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The machine invented by 25-year-old Dutch inventor and engineer Boyan Slat managed to collect trash from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This massive floating device consists of a huge line of cork floats holding a huge skirt that traps the garbage below.

Slat, the creator of the Ocean Cleanup project, tweeted that the 600 meter-long (2,000ft) free-floating boom had captured and retained debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Alongside a picture of the collected rubbish, which includes a car wheel, he wrote:

“Our ocean cleanup system is now finally catching plastic, from one-ton ghost nets to tiny microplastics! Also, anyone missing a wheel?”

The cleaning system is designed to not only collect discarded fishing nets and large visible plastic objects but also microplastics.

Slat added that their journey started seven years ago, and this time, it was tested in the unforgivable environment of the high seas. This marks the beginning of their attainable vision, which is to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, which has accumulated for decades.

He explains that they aim at cleaning up the so-called ocean garbage patches of the world’s ocean surface, as these are the five areas where plastic accumulates.

He explains that even if no more plastic enters the oceans, the plastic trapped in the currents of these accumulation zones will continue to cause harm, as it chokes or entangles countless marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and all other marine life, for decades and even centuries to come.

Moreover, ocean plastic carries toxic chemicals that enter the food chain and ultimately make their way into the human diet.

He said:

“Our team has remained steadfast in its determination to solve immense technical challenges to arrive at this point. Though we still have much more work to do, I am eternally grateful for the team’s commitment and dedication to the mission and look forward to continuing to the next phase of development.”

Launched from Vancouver in June, The Ocean Cleanup Project’s high-tech System 001/B is fitted with various devices like solar-powered lights, sensors, cameras, and satellite antennae that allow them to keep tabs on it via GPS. They also use a dedicated support vessel to collect the trapped plastic every few months before bringing it back to dry land.

System 001/B simulates a coastline and uses the force of the ocean to trap the numerous pieces of plastic debris swirling around in the patch.

Moreover, marine life can safely swim around, and marine biologists argue that the deployment of the system does not adversely affect the environment.

Slat added in a tweet that the system and its support vessel are in transit to port for a crew change and will resume collecting garbage on October 17.

Plus, the project believes there may be a premium market for items that have been made using plastic reclaimed from the ocean. Slat stated that he believes that in a few years when they will have the full-scale fleet out there, it should be possible to cover the operational cost of the cleanup operation using the plastic harvested.

They intend to scale up the device and make it more durable so it can retain plastic for up to a year or possibly longer before collection is necessary.

During a previous four-month trial, the boom broke apart and no plastic was collected. Therefore, its design has been changed since, including the addition of a “parachute anchor” to slow down the device’s movement in the ocean, allowing for faster-moving plastic debris to float into the system.

The design has undergone several major revisions since 2013, and it is hoped to be able to clean up half of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered in 1997 by ocean researcher Charles Moore, and it has now grown to become the largest accumulation zone of plastic in the world’s ocean.

Years later, he said that plastics are a leading cause of environmental devastation across the world, adding that our plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than our carbon footprint.

Experts and conservationists have been continually warning about the effects of the plastics and microplastics that are inundating the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment.

Additionally, plastic drink containers and trash used by fishers are trapping, confining, and killing marine wildlife like birds and fish.

The UN estimates that there are now about 100 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans, devastating tourism, and fishing while embedding itself on all levels of the food chain.

The source of 80 and 90 percent of plastic waste in the ocean is land-based, and a report prepared for the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, estimates that by 2050, plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all fish.