I have to admit, the first time I heard about The Ocean Cleanup, I thought of it as something great but super adventurous and slightly unrealistic. Fortunately, I was wrong- not about it being great, but about the rest.
Only a few years after the idea went viral, the revolutionary device, invented by Boyan Slat when he was still a teenager, is now collecting plastics in the North Sea. Last month, the project won the very prestigious Katerva Award. After this, the Dutch government granted funding so that the project can enter its one-year long testing phase.
The device was installed 12.5 miles out in the North Sea last week, Thursday. It is made of vulcanized rubber and it is powered solely by the ocean currents. Its total length is 328 feet.
The device breaks many records and it is “the first” in numerous categories, but the most noble of all, I think, is the one listing it as the first ever ocean cleanup system to be tested at sea.
The Dutch Minister of Environment, Sharon Dijksma, expressed her wish that in the end of this testing process, the device will turn out to be a successful large scale technology that removes floating plastics from the ocean. She also described the Ocean Cleanup prototype as an inspiring example of a great measure for dealing with the problem of ocean plastic pollution.
At the moment, the purpose of the testing is to measure resistance to ocean storms and strong currents. Of course, if it collects some plastics along the way, it would be an added bonus. The idea is that after testing, Boyan Slat and team can deploy the device in the Pacific Ocean, the area where most plastics have accumulated. There, the degradation of plastics is severe, affecting the environment, the marine life, and threatening entire eco systems of disappearing. Some predictions state that if no action is taken, in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
According to the preliminary calculations, there is about 30% chance that the system will get damaged during the tests. Nevertheless, the team behind the technology is highly optimistic. Slat himself comments that regardless of whether the prototype breaks or not, the results will be highly useful.
The team is looking to have the first fully operational pilot system deployed in the Pacific Ocean as soon as in 2017.
It is an incredible technology, I have to admit, and it serves an equally as incredible cause. I only hope that its success will not result in careless garbage disposal just because we’re able to clean it up.
Image (c) The Ocean Cleanup