The Ocean Clean Up launched a 600m-long floating system with a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt into the Pacific Ocean to passively collect ocean waste as it is propelled naturally around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Since 2013 Dutch inventor Boyan Slat has dreamed about cleaning up the vast quantities of plastic waste that have accumulated in the ocean. Earlier this year, with the help of Maersk, his 600-meter long plastic catching device was towed from California, to make a dent in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) that is wreaking havoc with marine biological systems. The GPGP is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world at around 1.6 million square kilometres and is located between Hawaii and California.

It is designed with flexibility, scalability and passivity in mind. It follows the natural wind and ocean current flows, exactly as floating plastic would, to reach the same areas where plastic waste congregates in the oceans. The float sits higher in the water than much of the plastic waste, meaning that it is blown faster than the waste can travel, thus collecting waste as it moves through the water. The skirt that sits beneath the float  was designed to collect plastic while allowing marine life to pass underneath, creating minimal disturbance. The skirt is also tapered in such a way to create a natural U-shape for the system so that the waste is collected in one place and can be systematically removed by the garbage trucks of the ocean.

Why you should care

Ocean debris has been building up at an alarming rate, but the distant nature of the problem means that people are less likely to perceive it as a pressing problem. That is not however the case for marine life. The Ocean Cleanup’s long-term ambition is to install at least 60 systems, with the aim of removing half of the 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years.

How the Global Goals are addressed

Good health and well-being
Plastics can be consumed by marine animals which are then concentrated as they move further up the food chain, and can pose health risks to people eating seafood.

Responsible consumption and production
Waste collected from the project will be recycled into new and durable products. Recycled plastic offers an alternative to crude oil as a feedstock for plastic product production.

Life below water
Plastics make up 90% of marine debris. Studies suggest around 700 species have encountered marine debris, 17% of which are believed to be on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.