The Ocean CleanUp, a foundation developing technologies to tackle ocean plastic pollution, has launched a 600 meter-long floating barrier to tackle ocean plastic. The structure, powered by currents, waves and wind, moves using ocean currents and comprises of 60 adjoining units that form a giant C-shaped tube attached to three-meter deep impenetrable skirt which will collect plastic waste of 1cm diameter and larger. The aim is for the structure to collect five tonnes of plastic every month, which will be removed every six weeks to be recycled in the Netherlands.
The foundation aims to begin by taking on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest and dirtiest of five ocean circulatory systems known as gyres.
Ocean plastic continues to be a huge problem so that according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. The Ocean CleanUp technologies could therefore provide a vital way of tackling the issue. However, claims that a full fleet of systems could remove 90% of surface plastics by 2040 have been met with scepticism from some environmentalists who stress that the primary problem lies in stemming the vast amounts of plastic flowing into the world’s oceans. While currently the device can capture plastic before it is broken down, it is unable to deal with the fog of smaller microplastics in the ocean.
Will this innovation help actively take plastic out of the ocean? Moreover, can it inspire further innovation for technologies to clean-up microplastics?