• Saving our Seas – The Ocean Cleanup

Saving our Seas – The Ocean Cleanup

Oct 22 2018 Read 2422 Times

In recognition of the Ocean Cleanup project, which launched last month, we’re going to take a look at some of the most innovative solutions to ocean pollution.

In part one of our 6-part series, we looked at the different types of pollution our oceans face, with everything from plastic to harmful chemicals.

In this post, we’re going to delve into the inspiration behind this series – The Ocean Cleanup…

Project history

When 16-year-old Boyan Slat, from the Netherlands, was scuba diving in Greece, he was shocked to see more plastic than sea life. After digging deeper into the issue, he was met with the realisation that there were very few serious efforts to combat the problem.

An ocean clean-up, using vessels and nets, would take thousands of years, cost billions of pounds and be even more damaging to sea life. So, Slat started to look at ‘garbage patches’ – 5 major plastic accumulation zones where ocean currents converge. He then came to the conclusion that, when using ocean current to an advantage, you can let the plastic come to you.

How it works

The Ocean Cleanup technology is made up of two main components – the floater and the skirt. The floater allows the system to stay afloat and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt captures any debris under the water.

Slat wanted to make use of the ocean’s natural current, so the wind and waves propel the system across the waters surface. Because most plastic is just below the surface, the system can move faster than debris and capture the plastic.

The Ocean Cleanup system follows a 4-step process:

1. Capture – The natural current allows the plastic to be captured in the centre of the system.

2. Accumulation – Its u-shaped system means plastic will be collected in the centre, forming a gathering of debris.

3. Extraction – A vessel will remove the collected debris every few months, taking care to not disrupt sea life.

4. Landing – The plastic will be processed on land and sorted for recycling, preventing it from making its way back to the ocean.

Protecting sea life

The safety of the marine environment is the main motivation behind The Ocean Cleanup. So, making sure sea life isn’t harmed by the process is fundamental. The systems are propelled by the wind and waves, meaning they move very slowly. This allows sea creatures to swim away.

The skirt is also impenetrable, meaning the current will flow underneath it, guiding away organisms that can’t actively move. Also, there is no net making up the screen, so creatures can’t become entangled. With the periodical removal of the waste, people are on hand to check for sea life before removing the plastic from the ocean.

Will it work?

As it stands, it remains unclear whether the project will be successful. The system was deployed in the great pacific garbage patch at the start of September and will remain there for the foreseeable future until the first plastic removal.

Want to find out more ways we can tackle ocean pollution? Our next post takes a closer look at the Seabin Project.

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