The Ocean Cleanup was started in 2012 by founder Boyan Slat. He started some researches and discovered plastic becomes very brittle when it stays in the salty ocean water for a long time. He also discovered the Great Pacific garbage patch contains “just” 3% small microplastics. The remaining 97% are large pieces of plastic that are slowly breaking down in little pieces.
The Ocean Cleanup projects offers a solution for this huge problem: with the help of crowdfunding, they invented a 100 km long machine that collects plastic. With the help of that machine, the plastic soup will be reduced for 42% in 10 years. This is nice but it can way faster. A new machine is needed. They started with some reconnaissance expeditions. The discovered the plastics are located at just a few meters. Also, they send out a fleet of 30 vessels for making up a map of the amount of big plastic. Because the plastic pieces are very big, an airplane was used for locating the plastics bigger than 10 meters.
With a lot of additional tests, they invented a new machine that behaves as the plastic. It uses the natural ocean stream to drift further, and because the current is faster as the current under water, an anchor is placed in those deeper streams, at a deepness of 600 meters so it slows down the system. The anchor itself, which is already in production, has a speed of 20% of the rest of the system. As long as the system is slower as the plastic on the surface, it will collect plastic. The advantages of this anchor is that you don’t need to go down 4,5km to the seabed for attaching the system. Also, you don’t need to understand the composition of the seabed. The biggest advantage is that your system can rotate in the ocean, so it can rotate to the plastic. It also increases the system’s survivability, because if the system is attached to the seabed, it needs to resist all the force of by example a storm. Speed and force are quadratic so the lower the speed, the lower the force, quadratic. That means you need less thick mooring line, and that’s cost-efficient.
They split up the massive system in smaller ones. That way, you can spread the cost of 700 million dollars. Also, the more plastic there is at a particular place, the more systems gets attracted to it, because of the drift currents. In this way, the higher the speed, the more plastic gets collected. With this system, 50% of the plastic soup can cleaned up in just 5 years. Normally, at 2050, the whole garbage patch will be cleaned up. The first systems are deployed at the end of 2018.
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