Currently in the Netherlands, there is a system in the prototype phase that has shown signs of promise to finally combat the ocean plastic dilemma. A nonprofit firm called Ocean Cleanup says its system is able to pick up ocean waste and hold it until it is able to be picked up. The system is able to pick everything from large objects including nets to small microplastics less than 1mm. So how does this system actually work to combat ocean pollution?
Before talking about how the history of the system, it’s important to learn first how the system actually works. System 001/B is the official name for the prototype built by Ocean Cleanup. System 001/B is a barrier shaped in a u-pattern with a skirt that sits just below the surface of the water. As it moves with the currents, it is able to capture any ocean plastic flowing towards the system. The newest version of the system added a parachute attached at the end to slow down the speed at which it moves. There’s also a rigid cork lining added on top of the skirt so no plastic sneaks over the system.
System 001/B has been deployed in several regions of the world, including the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California. This region is known to have extensive pollution as its nickname is “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” When the system was first tested in September 2018, a report in December of that year stated that the system had collected no trash. The group went back and did more testing, releasing a second version of the prototype. Then in January of this year, a section of the system broke off, meaning the system had to be brought back once more for more testing. Although in the second phase of testing, this version was able to capture 4,400 pounds of waste in a short period of time.
While System 001/B has come a long way since it was first debuted back in 2012 at a TedTalk conference, there are still some hurdles. First, the durability of the system has not been tested. It’s still unknown how long the system will last under harsh ocean conditions. Secondly, there is no official capacity of how much these systems are able to hold in reference to pounds of waste. Lastly, there are crews needed to collect the waste and dispose of it properly, which can end up costing some companies and countries a lot of money. Nonetheless, the company is dedicated to overcoming the hurdles and lessen the amount of ocean pollution in our oceans.