In mid-January 2019, the Wilson system completed its 800-mile journey and arrived in Hilo Bay, Hawaii. Ocean Cleanup planned to return the repaired system to duty by summer. In mid-June, after four months of work, the revamped system (001/B) was redeployed.
The Ocean Cleanup is non-government engineering environmental organization based
at Delft, Netherlands, that develops technology to extract plastic
pollution from the oceans.
BUSINESS INSIDER JUNE 28 2019: A new version of the massive plastic cleanup device invented by a 24-year-old is returning to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Young entrepreneur Boyan Slat has run into some hiccups with his plan to rid the world's oceans of plastic.
More than six years after the 24-year-old launched The Ocean Cleanup, the organization is still struggling to clean the
Great Pacific Garbage
Patch, a trash-filled vortex that's more than twice the size of Texas. The widening gyre is said to contain more than 1.8 trillion pieces of floating plastic, or the equivalent of 250 pieces of debris for every person on
After launching its first device in 2018, the organization recently deployed an entirely new system in the
Ocean. The improved device is meant to address problems with the old one, which was spilling plastic back into the
When Slat first explained his idea in a 2012 TEDx talk, he predicted that the device could passively collect plastic using the ocean's current.
After conducting six expeditions between November 2013 and July 2015, The Ocean Cleanup indeed learned that most plastic lingers near the water's surface. But the process of capturing it turned out to complicated.
In September 2018, the organization launched its first device — a 2,000-foot-long U-shaped array known as "Wilson" — from the San Francisco Bay. More than eight weeks later, Wilson began spilling plastic back into the
Great Pacific Garbage
Patch, and its sensors and satellite system were eventually compromised.
Researchers later traced the problem to a design and manufacturing flaw that generated a crack at the bottom of the pipe, which widened into
a fracture. The Ocean Cleanup was forced to return Wilson to port in December for repairs.
In the ensuing months, the organization worked hard to diagnose the problem. They eventually came to the conclusion that the device needed to travel at a consistent speed — either faster or slower than the plastic.
In June, The Ocean Cleanup launched a brand-new tool known as System 001/B from Vancouver Island. The device quickly made its way back to the garbage patch, where it is prepared to undergo a series of tests.
The first test will involve attaching a sea anchor that decelerates the speed of the system. If that doesn't work, The Ocean Cleanup will turn the device in the opposite direction and attach inflatable bags that tow it faster than the plastic. Their final plan of action is to attach fenders, which are much heavier than the bags, but will still drag the system forward.
Whichever method is successful could become part of the permanent design, but the organization still has a long way to go. In an online statement, The Ocean Cleanup said it was "looking forward to what's to come," but "prepared to encounter more unknowns."
Slat is not alone in the fight against ocean plastic. These
emerging technologies could all play a part in
containing the mountain of plastic that is accumulating on the oceans
floors, by recovering floating debris before it sinks. New ideas are
HISTORY 2012 - 2020
- TED Talk
- Company Formation
- Concept Revisions
- Scale Model Tests
- North Sea Trial
- Pipe Size Reduction
- Wilson & Scale Test
- Sea Trials Pacific
- The Future
to end Plastic Waste
Slat's ocean booms
4Ocean recycled plastic bracelets
Luna graphic novel
Ocean Waste Plastic
SeaVax autonomous drones
World Oceans Day
September 2018 The
World’s First Ocean Cleanup System Launched from San Francisco
March 2018 Great
Pacific Garbage Patch Growing Rapidly, Study Shows
December 2017 Research
Shows How Plastic at Sea Turns into Toxic Fish Food
June 2017 First
Estimate to Quantify Global Plastic Input from Rivers into Oceans
May 2017 The
Ocean Cleanup Announces Pacific Cleanup to Start in 2018
The floating boom systems are designed to capture plastics ranging from small pieces just millimeters in size, up to large debris, including massive discarded fishing nets (ghost nets), which can be tens of meters wide.
Models show that a full-scale cleanup system roll-out (a fleet of approximately 60 systems) could clean 50% of the
Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.
The system consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. The boom floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath.
It's a giant version of fishing nets as used for centuries by fishermen. A secondary net and modified
fishing vessels then capture and land the plastic on a vessel where it is transported to land for recycling.