The Ocean Cleanup initiative and its network to capture plastics in the ocean are taking bigger and bigger steps. Eight years after its founding and three years since launching its first cleanup system, the organization has effectively harvested plastic with a scalable ocean cleanup design.
The organization has ended its testing campaigns in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and is now kicking off its first operational mission, which will involve redeploying its System 002 trash-collecting barrier; while simultaneously initiating the development of the larger, upgraded System 003.
The recent tests have been more successful than they expected. The System 002, nicknamed Jenny, was the team’s largest system yet, spanning 800 meters (2,640 ft), with crewed vessels at either end dragging the barrier through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The redesigned system successfully harvested plastic waste, including tiny debris fragments, toilet seats, toothbrushes, laundry baskets, shoes, crates, sleds, discarded fishing gear, and other items.
From nine test extractions, the organization collected a total of 28,659 kilograms (63,182 lbs) of plastic from the ocean, of which 9,014 kilograms (or 19,872 lbs) were removed in a single haul. The recovered plastic waste can then be sent to the production of new objects, such as sunglasses.
In parallel with the cleaning operations, the team will get to work on an even larger system. The Ocean Cleanup intends to remain operational with System 002 until deploying System 003, which will be three times the size with a length of 2.5 km (1.5 miles). Its design will incorporate some insights collected from the System 002 test campaign.
System 003 is expected to be the blueprint design for scaling to a fleet of systems to clean the oceans, starting with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The organization expects to deploy a fleet of ten systems capable of reducing 50% of the gyre every five years. Meanwhile, its efforts to prevent plastic from entering the ocean via rivers will continue with new Interceptor projects scheduled for this year and next.