Solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights communicate the position of the device to passing marine traffic and provide the Ocean Cleanup team with data on the system's performance.
After four years of research and adjustments to the groundbreaking system, the design now entails a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below.
In parallel to finding clean alternatives to plastic, we need a radical solution to ocean plastic, and a young Dutch innovator may have found that.
San Francisco (USA) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands), September 8, 2018 - The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch non-profit organization developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic, today launched the world's first ocean cleanup system from San Francisco Bay. - The prototype technology, developed by Boyan Slat, is about 2,000 feet of floating booms that will be towed out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastics and trash about the size of France, in hopes of helping remove the pollutants.
California Coastal Commission marine debris program manager Eben Schwartz told shark researcher David Shiffman of Southern Fried Science that "To make the claim, as The Ocean Cleanup Project is, that they will "clean the oceans" by 2040 or whenever is disingenuous and misleading, when it will, at best, clean a very small percentage of what's found on the surface". The Ocean Cleanup projects that the full fleet can remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years' time. Slat's 600 meter long "plastic catcher" departed from San Francisco on Saturday and is on its way to clean up the plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, NOS reports.
The system is designed so that natural oceanic forces carry it faster than plastic garbage, and concentrate it in the center of the "U" shaped by the boom.
The vessel's slow speed, impenetrable screen and people checking for signs of marine life as the screen is lifted from the water will help avoid any casualties, Ocean Cleanup states. They will stay in the water for two decades and in that time collect 90 percent of the trash in the patch, he added.
"We at the Ocean Conservancy are highly sceptical but we hope it works", he said.
"If you don't stop plastics from flowing into the ocean, it will be a Sisyphean task", Mr Leonard said. "We have to wait and see".
"I'm the first to acknowledge this has never done before and that it is important to collect plastic on land and close the taps on plastic entering into the ocean, but I also think humanity can do more than one thing at a time to tackle this problem", Slat said.
One of the worries is about the fact the plastic has sunk much deeper than the System's skirt is able to reach and, in addition, there is also the issue about the marine life that might become entangled in the structure.