Large-Scale Ocean Cleanup System Now Successfully Collecting Plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Ocean Cleanup system
Photo courtesy The Ocean Cleanup

After a year of testing, the company behind the world’s first large-scale ocean cleanup system says is system is now succesffully capturing and collecting plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Launched from Vancouver in June, System 001/B is The Ocean Cleanup’s second attempt to prove its concept of collecting garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest accumulation zone of plastic in the world’s oceans.

The company announced Wednesday that the system is now working as planned. In addition to collecting visible plastic debris and larger ghost nets associated with commercial fishing, the system has also successfully captured microplastics as small as 1 millimeter, a feat which the company says it was pleasantly surprised to achieve.

The concept for the first cleanup system, which uses natural environmental forces to catch plastic and other ocean debris at or near the surface, was first presented by Boyan Slat at a TEDx conference in October 2012.

One collected, the plastic collected is returned to land for recycling.

“After beginning this journey seven years ago, this first year of testing in the unforgivable environment of the high seas strongly indicates that our vision is attainable and that the beginning of our mission to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, which has accumulated for decades, is within our sights,” said Boyan Slat.

The Ocean Cleanup launched System 001/B from Vancouver back in June following a year of testing. The company’s first sytem, System 001, aka “Wilson”, was launched from San Francisco in September 2018, but ultimately failed due to a “structural malfunctioning” which forced it back to port for repairs.

“Our team has remained steadfast in its determination to solve immense technical challenges to arrive at this point,” Slat added. “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.”

With the early success of the System 001/B, The Ocean Cleanup says it will now begin to design its next ocean cleanup system, System 002; a full-scale cleanup system which will retain the collected plastic for long periods of time.

The Ocean Cleanup ultimately aims at deploying dozens of systems to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the coming years. If successful, the fleet could be enough to remove half of the nearly 2 trillion pieces of plastic estimated to be floating on or near the surface of the Pacific Ocean in just five years.