Cleaning the ocean with pipes

07.03.19 | by Aline Salmi in planet,

The ocean is a very important biome for the Earth ecosystem, some theories point out that life first started on our planets in the seas. We still don’t know much about in comparison to what we know about the land due to the difficulties to explore it.

But something that we can deny is that great part of what humans consume on a daily basis and a great deal of the economy comes from the sea. As we develop ourselves as a society, the ocean is struggling with the consequences, and it influences our whole environment.

It’s hard to estimate the amount of trash disposed of in the oceans, despite polluting solutions, plastic components are extremely harming to wildlife. and considering this, Boyan Slat came up with a revolutionary idea to revert this scenario.

He dropped out of university to found a startup named The Ocean Clean Up, that by the name you can imagine its goals. But different from other initiatives of removing trash from the sea, that are way expensive and harmful to the environment such as throwing nets and pulling out of the water with boats, he developed a technology that uses the currents to pick up the waste out of the ocean.

[Photo: The Ocean Cleanup]

At first, there was a study showing that the waste accumulates in 5 main spots, called “ocean garbage patches”. With that evaluated, it’s easier to focus on the concentration of the problems.

Then they moved their research to the technology that would be able to catch and store this garbage. After testing the first prototype near to Alaska, where the ocean conditions are more extreme, the company developed a giant floating tubular vessel, resistant to the waves and flexible to shape as a barrier to surround these patches.

ocean garbage patches

[Photo: The Ocean Cleanup]

The startup raised USD 2.2 million and other investors brought more resources to it. The optimized prototype will be first tested this summer (2018), the system will be towed at the San Francisco Bay and the team will be monitoring the activity and use the data to improve the model and bring this part back to connect to the 2,000 feet of piping and then move it to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the biggest of them all, accumulating 1,8 trillion of pieces and 80,000 tons of plastic.

According to the project website, they will be able to clean up 50% of the Pacific Pacht in 5 years and aim for a free plastic ocean by 2050. The structure is composed of these floating pipes and a drifting nylon screen (not a net, so it won’t catch marine life) as a barrier underneath to collect not only the plastic on the surface but the ones that are a little bit deeper. The system will be anchored by floating devices in steady waters hundreds of feet below the surface, in order to slow the speed of the pipes against the currents. As this barrier is not fixed, the studies show that they are more efficient in collecting the waste.

[Photo: The Ocean Cleanup]

One of the main goals is to start the cleaning up as soon as possible because as time passes it gets harder to clean it as the plastic decomposes itself by breaking into microparticles. And all waste collected will be recycled.

This is a revolutionary model and a bold initiative. They aim high and the stakes are high. We will be looking up for updates on this project. If they deliver their promises, it will be really amazing.