UN Environment Champion of the Earth Boyan Slat and his Ocean Cleanup team launched the long-awaited, revolutionary marine litter cleanup system – expected to tackle 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic marine debris – at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
System 001, as the first deployable model of the connected floating trash receptacles is dubbed, made its way out of the San Francisco Harbor towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch under the watchful eye of hundreds of supporters, press, scientist and policymakers, where it will start to tackle one of the largest accumulations of marine litter on earth.
According to the UN Environment, after four years of research and adjustments to the groundbreaking system, the design currently entails a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below.
Together, the U-shaped floater and skirt are carried by the oceans’ natural movements (currents and waves), passively catching plastic debris along the way.
The system has initially been towed 240 nautical miles into the Pacific Ocean for trials. After completion of the trails, the 600-meter long device will travel the remaining 1000 nautical miles to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Based on the research done by the Ocean Cleanup, a scaled-up fleet of 60 systems could eventually clean up 50% of the Patch in the next 5 years.
The 24-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat made waves around the world 6 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.
Every year, at least 8 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.