Editors' Choice

Company Launches New Ship to Cleanup Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Diana Rolland / September 12, 2018

A team of scientists and engineers from The Ocean Cleanup have launched the first test of an automated vessel intended to collect plastic waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. If successful, the ship could be just the first in a fleet of garbage collectors that could scour the ocean for hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic.

The giant device is a floating U-shaped boom, 1,969 feet long, guided by cameras, sensors, and satellites. Ocean Cleanup will deploy the boom to float with the current and scoop up piles of trash, using a net to catch microplastics under the surface. If the ship works, it should collect 100,000-150,000 pounds of plastic waste in the first year.

Boyan Slat, a 24-year-old Dutch engineering student who dropped out of university to found The Ocean Cleanup, spearheaded the development of the $30 million garbage truck. He’s determined to tackle the massive problem of ocean plastic waste. The high seas are swamped with giant floating piles of trash. Ocean currents have collected thousands of tons of plastic, thrown out or washed out to sea. Currents carry garbage to gyres, large systems of circular currents, where they form a soup of toxic debris that stretch for hundreds of miles. It’s a dystopian vision of a future earth literally buried by toxic waste.

Slat cautions us that the best way to clean up the ocean is to reduce plastic waste on land. But that won’t remove the existing floating islands of plastic! That’s where The Ocean Cleanup Project thinks they have a potential solution. Of course, the first vessel will have to prove that it can collect plastic waste, survive storms and inclement weather during an extended voyage at sea, and whether or not it poses a threat to marine life. If everything goes according to plan, Slat plans to launch a fleet of 60 automated vessels that can collect millions of pounds of plastic a year.

Even if it works, we should all stop using plastic water bottles.