Planet Care Human Effort

244: Ocean Clean-up machine


An estimated 8.8 million tons ( 8 million tonnes) of plastic waste finds its way into our oceans every year, and that burden is expected to grow. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between California and Hawaii is the area where plastic rubbish accumulates because of ocean currents, known as gyres which act such as a vortex pulling waste into a central channel. It is around three times the size of Spain.


A floating barrier that collects marine debris as the system is pushed by wind, waves and current, and slowed down by a sea anchor.

The Ocean Cleanup was founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, of Croatian origin, living in the Netherlands. In 2011, at age 16, Slat came across more plastic than fish while diving in Greece. He decided to devote a high school project to deeper investigation into ocean plastic pollution and why it was considered impossible to clean up.

He later came up with the idea to build a passive system, using the circulating ocean currents to his advantage, which he presented at a TEDx talk in Delft in 2012. He founded the non-profit Ocean Cleanup in 2013, and shortly after, his TEDx talk went viral after being shared on several news sites.

After foundation, The Ocean Cleanup managed to raise US$2.2 million through a crowdfunding campaign with the help of 38,000 donors from 160 countries. In June 2014, the Ocean Cleanup published a 528-page feasibility study.

As a planet-protecting solution, the prototype consisted of 2000 ft (600 m.) long, U-shaped floating cylinder with a 9ft (2.74 m) skirt beneath which moves along with the current capturing plastic as it goes.

It is attached to a central platform shaped like a manta ray for stability. The barriers would direct the floating plastic to the central platform, which would remove the plastic from the water.

The refuse is then picked up by boat every few months and taken to land for processing and recycling. In 2014, the design was revised, replacing the central platform with a tower detached from the floating barriers. This platform would collect the plastic using a conveyor belt.

On June 22, 2016, The Ocean Cleanup deployed a 330 ft (100 m.)-long barrier segment in the North Sea, 14.2 mi. (23 km) off the coast of The Netherlands. It was the first time the design was put to the test in open waters and the tests conducted gave valuable insights to the engineering team.

Making modifications on a small scale structure 10 mi. offshore is relatively easy. In contrast, making corrections on a large scale structure 1,609 km (1,000 mi.) offshore would be an entirely different challenge, at a different cost.

The test indicated that conventional oil containment booms could not endure the harsh environments the system would face. They changed the floater material to a hard-walled HDPE pipe, which is flexible enough to follow the waves, and rigid enough to maintain its open U-shape. More prototypes were deployed to test component endurance.

On September 9, 2018, System 001 (nicknamed Wilson in reference to the floating soccer ball in the 2000 film Cast Away) deployed from San Francisco. The ship Maersk Launcher towed the system to a position 286 mi (440 km) off the coast, where it was put through a series of sea trials. When the tests were complete, it was towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for real-world duty.

Research by the foundation found that, at its peak, the patch contains around 330lbs (150 kg.) of plastic per square mile, reducing to 33lbs (15 kg.) at the outer edges. Wilson arrived on October 16, 2018, and was deployed in operational configuration. System 001 encountered difficulties retaining the plastic collected. The system collected debris, but soon lost it because the barrier traveled too slowly.

In November, the project attempted to widen the mouth of the U by 195-230 ft. (60-70m.) but failed. A 60-foot chunk of the Ocean Cleanup device, deployed with much fanfare in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in October, has broken off and the entire plastic collection system will now be towed back to port for an overhaul and upgrade. The break was discovered on Dec. 29 during a routine inspection by the cleanup system’s crew. A 60-foot (18 m.) end section of the 2,000-foot (600 m.) boom that corrals the plastic had detached

Shortly thereafter, the rig began its journey to Hawaii for inspection and repair. During the two months of operation, the system had captured some 4,400 lb. (2,000 kg.) of plastic. In mid-January 2019, Wilson completed its 800 mi (1,290 km.) journey and arrived in Hilo Bay, Hawaii. Ocean Cleanup anticipates the repaired system being back in action by summer.

In July 2019, the improved System 001B its size reduced by a factor of 3, returned towards the GPGP Vortex. A string of huge inflatable buoys had been attached across the system’s opening to add to the windage of the system and pull it through the water faster. If that failed, the team would hoist a huge parachute to the opening.

Measuring 65 ft (20 m.) across, to serve as an anchor of sorts, slowing the system down so that it travels at around the same speed as the water. It has also reduced the size of the barrier by a factor of three and taken a more modular approach to its construction, allowing the team to deploy the system faster and make certain alterations without towing it back to shore.

In October, Boyan Slat tweeted that System 001B had successfully captured and retained debris.

Alongside a picture of the collected rubbish, which includes a car wheel, Slat wrote: “Our ocean cleanup system is now finally catching plastic, from one-ton ghost nets to tiny microplastics! Also, anyone missing a wheel?” The plastic gathered was brought to shore in December for recycling.

The project believes there may be a premium market for items that have been made using plastic reclaimed from the ocean. “I think in a few years’ time when we have the full-scale fleet out there, it should be possible to cover the operational cost of the cleanup operation using the plastic harvested,” Slat said.

In February 2020, the Globus Family of Brands, which includes Globus, Cosmos, Monograms, and Avalon, launched a new promotion in hopes of supporting The Ocean Cleanup. Globus is making a donation to The Ocean Cleanup every time a client opts for e-docs, rather than paper documents, when booking a trip.

For inshore cleaning, The Ocean Cleanup presented its latest invention in Rotterdam, Netherlands, a solar-electric trash-collecting barge called The Interceptor. The Interceptor aims to collect low-hanging fruit, plastic trash, as it voyages down the world’s most polluted rivers before reaching the sea.

When the vessel is anchored to the riverbed, a floating arm extends into the river’s current to catch plastic and direct it into the Interceptor’s open maw, where it is hauled from the water and put into dumpsters, which can be removed for recycling.

Four Interceptors have already been built, and two are operational, one on the Klang River that flows through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and one on the Cengkareng Drain, which flows through Jakarta, Indonesia. The other two are destined for Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.

Outfitted with li-ion batteries and an array of solar panels, Interceptors can operate day or night, without producing noise or pollution. The organization estimates that a single Interceptor could remove as much as 110,000 lb (50,000 kg) of plastic trash a day from a polluted river, and claims that because the arm will not completely span the river, it will not impede boat traffic or local wildlife. The idea is to implement the Interceptor as a scalable solution that can be mass-produced to meet needs around the world.

By placing Interceptors in 1,000 strategic locations in rivers around the world, the Ocean Cleanup could halt 80% of plastic from entering the oceans in five years’ time.

On October 25th 2020 Ocean Cleanup launched its first “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” product, The Ocean Cleanup sunglasses made from the recycled plastic, designed in California by Yves Behar, made in Italy by Safilo. Recycled plastic was also used for the sunglasses’ case is made from the HDPE floater of System 001 (aka Wilson), and the carrying pouch is made from recycled PET bottles.

With a similar approach, Marcella Hansch, an architectural student of Aachen, Germany, has invented “Pacific Garbage Screening”, a floating platform with a distinctive design that makes it possible to filter plastic particles out of the water from both oceans and rivers.

The platform is an anchored object, so it has no drive and needs no fuel, and works like an inverted sedimentation basin. Its architectural form calms down the ocean currents and then because of the calming and the low density of plastics, the plastic particles float to the surface. There is no need for filter systems such as nets. This means fish and other ocean life will not be harmed.

For this design, Hansch not only received the “25 Women Award – Women, whose inventions change our lives” from the magazine Edition F but also the German Federal Ecodesign Award in the category Young Talent.

The Pacific Garbage Screening ngo has funding from both Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Oris and German sanitary fittings manufacturer Grohe so that together with an interdisciplinary team of natural scientists, engineers and marine biologists, the trained architect is working on the creation of the platform to be implemented within the next five years. (

In the closed sea which is the Mediterranan, swelling with 600,000 tons of plastic every year. Co-founded by Pierre-Ange Giudicelli, the Mare Vivu association based at Pinu on the island of Corsica has organized the CorSeaCare 2.0 mission to inform the public about the harmful effects of single-use plastic and to clean up the coastline using a low-tech system that allows used plastic to be recycled. This includes members going out along the beaches or in their boats, catamarans and kayaks, and picking up plastic waste.

What you can do: Use this link to »» buy Ocean Cleanup sunglasses.

Discover Solution 245: Sustainable tooth cleaners

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