The Ocean Cleanup Project: our saviour or a failure?
Boyan Slat is the mind behind The Ocean Cleanup Project. The 25-year-old designed groundbreaking technology that collects free-floating plastic in the ocean. It removes it and takes it to land where it can go through the proper processing.
The need for a project like this is bigger than ever. Between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, destroying wildlife, habitats, and creating huge islands of waste. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is over double the size of Texas and growing. But technology like The Ocean Cleanup device could be the beginning of change.
How the technology works
The device is a 2,000-foot, U-shaped array, aptly named “Wilson” as it floats on the surface of the ocean. Below the surface, there is a skirt attached to the buoyant tube which prevents smaller particles escaping beneath Wilson, while the floating tube prevents plastic from escaping over the top. Marine life can easily pass beneath the skirt. The device is powered by natural energy: wind, waves, and the current. Because of this – and its design – it automatically floats to the areas where plastic accumulates.
But, as hopeful as the world was when we heard about the new groundbreaking technology, after its initial deployment in 2018, the device began to spill plastic and had to return to shore to undergo repairs. Then, its sensors and satellite system also failed. Wilson had to return to port in December.
The main problem was Wilson was moving too fast, so in summer 2019, The Ocean Cleanup Project released a new and improved version of Wilson. It came equipped with underwater parachutes to slow the device’s movement through the water. This proved to be the winning concept after months of running tests to see how to improve the effectiveness of Wilson.
More work to do
Now, those working at The Ocean Cleanup Project face more challenges. To secure the screen responsible for capturing plastics, the group installed a cork line, like the ones used to separate swimming pool lanes. But, this line isn’t tall enough to keep plastic from passing over. So the next plan of action is to raise the height.
The concept isn’t foolproof yet; there’s still work to do. But, it is in relatively early stages, and once they get the design right, The Ocean Cleanup Project plans to make more of these plastic-trapping devices to have an even greater impact on the ocean waste problem.
Slat says a working design could transform the garbage patch from twice the size of Texas to 1/35 the size of Houston. With such amazing potential results, perseverance is key for The Ocean Cleanup Project.
It’s more important than ever to be aware of how our actions affect the world around us. At TPSG, we’re trying to help businesses reduce their environmental impact by offering all our packaging lines in biodegradable materials. Together, we can reduce plastic waste and make Boyan Slat’s life a little easier. For more information, get in touch with us on 01782 213 116.
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