A waste collection system tasked with ridding the world’s oceans of plastic has begun raking up debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch after a year of testing and one major setback, its Dutch inventor said on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.
“Today, I am very proud to share with you that we’re now catching plastics,” said Boyan Slat, the founder of The Ocean Cleanup project, at a news conference in Rotterdam.
Slat, 25, said the passive clean-up system can capture plastics of “all size classes,” including microplastics.
The project, founded in 2013, aims to install floating devices to catch plastic debris in five “garbage patches” formed by ocean currents.
The first device was placed in the biggest, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, around 2,000 kilometres off the coast of California.
The method involves two plastic pipes around 600 metres long floating on the surface of the water, forming a U-shape with a 3-metre long underwater screen beneath.
The rubbish is washed into the U-shape and can then be collected.
The structure was pulled out of San Francisco Bay into open ocean in September 2018.
But the vessel soon had to be towed back to land after a design flaw resulted in problems in retaining the plastic collected. Slat said those technical challenges had been addressed and that the process of designing a second system that can operate without human aid for even longer periods of time than the first model was under way.