After Successful Trials, Maersk Launcher Towing First Ocean Cleanup System to Great Pacific Garbage Patch

ocean cleanup project
Ocean Cleanup Project’s System 001 during sea trials off the coast of California with the Maersk Launcher. Photo: Ocean Cleanup Project

The world’s first large-scale ocean cleanup system is now headed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch after successfully completing sea trials off the coast California.

The Ocean Cleanup Project announced Wednesday that its System 001, which departed San Francisco on Sept. 8, is now back in towing configuration and is on its way to the Garbage Patch. The system is being towed by the Maersk Launcher, made available to the project by A.P. Moller-Maersk and DeepGreen, its current charter holder.

System 001 consists of a 600-meter-long (2000 ft) U-shaped floating barrier with a three-meter (10 ft) skirt. It could be the first of 60 systems focused on removing floating plastic debris from Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located some 1,200 nautical miles offshore, 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. Due to its shape, the debris will be funneled to the center of the system. Moving slightly faster than the plastic, the system will act like a giant Pac-Man, skimming the surface of the ocean.

Situated halfway between Hawaii and California, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and covers an area twice the size of Texas. It is believed the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastics.

While the main objective of System 001 is to prove the technology and start the cleanup, a secondary goal is to collect performance data to improve the design for future deployments. The system is also equipped with solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights to communicate the position of System 001 to passing marine traffic, and enable extensive monitoring of the system and the environment.

After delivery of the system to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Maersk Launcher will remain active as an observation platform for several weeks.

If all goes according to plan, The Ocean Cleanup estimates the fleet of systems, strategically positioned, could remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years’ time.

A video showing the cleanup system works is below: