At eWater, we are a community with an active goal, to reduce our chemical footprint and promote sustainable practices. Every now and again we share projects from home and abroad which align with our values and benefit the world. This month we share an ambitious project that has just launched into full operation to rid our oceans of plastics by 2050.
There is a growing global movement of individuals and organisations leading the way in applying smart technology to environmental challenges. One of these global leaders is Dutch inventor Boyan Slat.
After presenting his early vision of his Ocean Cleanup machine in a TED talk in 2011 at the age of 17, Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup the following year in his hometown of Delft, the Netherlands.
The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. After five years of research, engineering and testing, The Ocean Cleanup launched the world’s first ocean clean up system, known as System 001 in the San Franciso Bay in September and moved into full operation this month. This marks the start of an ambitious plan to rid the world’s oceans of plastic debris.
Over 5 trillion pieces of garbage currently litter the ocean
Ocean currents concentrate plastic in five areas in the world: the subtropical gyres, also known as the world’s “ocean garbage patches”. Once in these patches, the plastic will not go away by itself.
The challenge of cleaning up the gyres is the plastic pollution spreads across millions of square kilometers and travels in all directions. Covering this area using vessels and nets would take thousands of years and cost billions of dollars to complete. In 2011, Boyan Slat knew there was a better way to tackle this global issue, and soon after he founded The Ocean Cleanup organision with a vision to develop a technology system that would help oceans clean themselves.
Taking advantage of natural forces
Over the last five years The Ocean Cleanup have developed and refined a passive drifting system, that sits just above the water surface propelled by wind and waves, while the plastic in the ocean is primarily just beneath it. The system moves faster than the plastic below, which allows the plastic to be captured.
Following a trial period with System 001 installed in its operational u-shape configuration in the Pacific Ocean now complete, deployment has commenced this week in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Extensive monitoring will be carried out 24/7 to observe the system’s behavior and its surrounding environment. System 001’s live location and regular progress updates are available online.
A technology-led solution towards a plastic free ocean by 2050
By utilising the ocean currents, The Ocean CleanUp’s passive drifting systems could clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time. Research shows the majority of plastic by mass in the ocean is currently in the larger debris. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, The Ocean Cleanup are preventing it from breaking down into dangerous microplastics. Combining the clean up with source reduction on land, paves the road towards a plastic free ocean by 2050. This is a mighty vision and one worthy of aspiring to.
Technology is delivering new solutions for environmental challenges
Boyan Slat is the youngest ever recipient of the UN’s highest environmental accolade, Champion of the Earth in 2015. “Technology is the most potent agent of change. It is an amplifier of human capabilities”, Slat recently wrote in The Economist.
Leveraging technology to deliver environmental and sustainable outcomes also underpins eWater System’s work, and we are inspired by other individuals and organisation’s developing innovative and scalable ways to make the world a cleaner and better place for future generations.