21-year-old Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat came up with an innovative idea to clean up the garbage floating around in the world’s oceans. His initiative, The Ocean Cleanup, is a passive system that consists of long floating barges that catch the rubbish as moves in the ocean's natural currents.
The Ocean Cleanup team have announced that they will be deploying a segment of the barrier in the North Sea, 23 kilometres from the coast of The Netherlands, to test the effects of real-life sea conditions, specifically waves and currents, on their design.
This first test run of the ocean barrier is set to be two kilometres long – making it the longest floating structure in history. The ultimate goal is to build a structure 100 kilometres long by 2020. This will be targeting the plastic waste floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a swirling vortex of waste made up mostly of plastics), which is estimated to be five times bigger than Texas.
The Ocean Cleanup team began testing the barrier in different water conditions at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) in October 2015. They were able to simulate extreme wave conditions to see what the ocean array could withstand. The engineering team are hoping to learn more some valuable lessons from the open water test in the North Sea this year. The first fully operational test Coastal Pilot is set to be deployed off the coast of Tsushima Island in Japan in late 2016; it will be anchored to the ocean bed.
The plastic in the oceans is a serious threat to marine wildlife, killing significant numbers of birds and ocean mammals every year. When the plastic stays in the ocean for long periods of time it begins to break down into small particles, which are then ingested by fish and introduce harmful toxins to the food chain. It is essential that something is done to fight this problem. While The Ocean Cleanup project is not without its sceptics, it is a very ambitious and if successful will be a low-impact, sustainable and relatively affordable solution.
Slat, CEO of Ocean Cleanup, claims that while there is a lot of talk about the issues associated with ocean pollution, there is very little action.
The Ocean Cleanup was one of the five winners of the INDEX: Design to Improve Life Awards 2015.