Boyan Slat, founder and chief executive officer of The Ocean Cleanup, said that the launch of the equipment is an important milestone, but that the real celebration will come once the first plastic returned to shore. “For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans; from that day onwards, we’re taking it back out again,” he said.
Officials with Ocean Cleanup say their cleanup system, System 001, consists of a 600-meter-long U-shaped floating barrier with a 10-foot skirt designed to be propelled by wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris in front of it, like a giant Pac-Man. The debris will be funneled to the center of the system, moving slightly faster than the plastic trash.
According to the organization officials this will be the first time free-floating plastic will be successfully collected at sea. Upon returned to land, The Ocean Cleanup plans to recycle the materials into products and use the proceeds to help fund the cleanup operations.
Ocean Cleanup officials say they anticipate that the first plastic will be collected and returned to land within six months of the deployment. While the main objective is to prove the technology and start the cleanup, the secondary goal is to collect performance data to improve the design for future deployments. To that effect, the system is currently equipped with solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights to communicate its position to passing marine traffic and allow for extensive monitoring of the system itself and the environment.