Some eight million metric tons of plastic waste collect in the oceans each year, threatening marine life. In a world’s first, a new barrier has been devised by Ocean Cleanup to remove that waste — stationed 10 times further from land and 50% deeper than the world’s most remote oil rig. Once deployed, it will be 100 times longer than any other structure floating at sea.
Dutch organization Ocean Cleanup, the company that developed the barrier, seeks to revolutionize the way we clean our oceans. According to Ocean Cleanup, accumulated plastic can now be removed far cheaper than by conventional means. The company estimates that the barrier will be able to extract “about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years, at a fraction of the cost.”
“Instead of using nets, The Ocean Cleanup utilizes solid screens which catch the floating plastic, but allows sea life to pass underneath the barrier with the current,” the company says. “Thanks to the orientation of the barriers moored to the seabed, plastic will slowly be pushed towards the center of the array, becoming even more concentrated.”
“A central collection point extracts and buffers the debris, before being shipped to land. By recycling the debris and selling the semi-finished product directly to B2C companies, we aim to eventually make the operation self-sustainable,” the company adds.
Ocean Cleanup points out that any form of debris can be collected with its screens. Founded by 22-year-old Boyan Slat, the company unveiled its first prototype in the North Sea in June, 23 kilometers (14 miles) off the Dutch coast. The 100-meter-long (328 f00t) prototype will remain at sea for one year.
“This is a historic day on the path toward clean oceans. A successful outcome of this test should put us on track to deploy the first operational pilot system in late 2017.” Slat said at the time. He predicted that the test did not mean the prototype won’t break.
“I estimate there is a 30% chance the system will break, but either way, it will be a good test,” he added.
The title of this article was changed from “Will This Invention Rid the Oceans of Plastics” to “Can This Invention By Ocean Cleanup Rid Our Oceans Of Plastic?” on 23 April, 2018. This article was also edited for clarity.