24-Year-Old Inventor Launches World’s First ‘Ocean Cleanup’ System

A supply ship, dubbed Ocean Cleanup, has set sail in San Francisco in an attempt to clean up the ocean.

The ambitious project aims to clean up 50 per cent of the 80, 000 tonnes of plastic located in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years.

Every year, at least eight million tonnes of plastic leaks into our oceans. Besides washing up on our beaches and shorelines, plastic marine debris accumulates in five garbage patches around the world. The largest one of these, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is located between Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States.

The boat, which departed on September 8 2018, is now on its way to a test stop, for a two-week trial before continuing its journey toward the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 1,200 nautical miles offshore. Some of the plastic in the garbage patch dates back to the sixties.

After four years of research and adjustments to the boat’s system, the design currently entails a 600-metre-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered three-metre-deep skirt attached below. Together, the U-shaped floater and skirt are carried by the oceans’ natural movements, passively catching plastic debris along the way.

The Ocean Cleanup, developed by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, is working with Maersk to complete this journey. 

24-year-old Slat, said: “The main mission is to show that it works, and hopefully then in a few months from now, the first plastics will arrive back into port, which means that it becomes proven technology.”

Boyan Slat addresses the media at the launch

Once the plastic has been collected from the ocean it will be brought back for recycling and then sold, the profits will then fund future Ocean Cleanup projects.

Steen S. Karstensen, CEO of Maersk, said: “We are truly proud to be supporting the installation of the Ocean Cleanup’s first system. Large towing operations have been a part of Maersk’s Service Supply’s work-scope for decades. It is rewarding to see that our marine capabilities can be utilised within new segments, and to support solving such an important environmental issue.”

Slat first made waves around the world six years ago, when he first developed his plans for a system to tackle the massive patches of plastic debris floating in our oceans. For his relentless efforts to chart new territory in the quest for a solution to the ever-growing global problem of plastic marine debris, UN Environment awarded Slat the Champions of Earth Award in 2014.

This news follows the start of the United Nations ocean treaty conference, set to create policy for the high seas over the next two years.

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