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The Ocean Cleanup: How It Works

The uncontrolled human use of plastic is leaving a catastrophic footprint on the world’s oceans. This material that we use so much in our daily lives does not always end up recycled, but very often reaches waterways and oceans by draining water in urban areas. Inevitably, this highly polluting product floods the seas and oceans and endangers the life of marine animals and even our own.

Fortunately, different purposes are currently being carried out to clean the oceans of the plastic that humans produce, such as The Ocean Cleanup project , whose technology is based on extracting plastic waste and preventing new contamination. From AgroCorrn we want to explain in detail what The Ocean Cleanup is, how it works and why it is so important .

Index
  1. The great problem of pollution in the oceans and seas
  2. What is The Ocean Cleanup and how does it work to clean the ocean
  3. More useful information about The Ocean Cleanup system
  4. When does The Ocean Cleanup start to work to clean the oceans

The great problem of pollution in the oceans and seas

A huge part of the garbage that is produced worldwide ends up in the seas and oceans of the entire planet, such as straws, bags, containers, nets, bottles, etc. These wastes are distributed by ocean currents and accumulate forming 5 patches or islets of garbage and plastic in the oceans , the largest located between Hawaii and California, called the Great Pacific garbage patch. In this other article you can learn more about what are plastic islands and how they are formed .

This oceanic pollution caused by plastic damages the quality of the waters and endangers the life of aquatic animals , who often feed on this waste, mistaking it for their usual food or get caught in “plastic traps”. Many sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and, when ingested, they cause serious health problems and even death. Other animals get caught in plastic waste that causes serious injuries and prevents them from moving, feeding or performing any other vital activity, growing deformed and dying after a while.

In addition, this problem not only affects marine animals, but indirectly it has also become a problem of the first order in the life of human beings. By feeding on seafood, we are introducing that contamination into our bodies, damaging our own health due to the contamination that we ourselves have caused. Likewise, the pollution of marine ecosystems alters the balance of the entire planet, so if plastic continues to circulate through ocean currents and the size of plastic islands increases, all ecosystems on the planet will be affected.

Faced with this global environmental problem, measures are necessary to care for and protect the seas and oceans. For example, many initiatives promote coastal cleanups to prevent plastics from entering the oceans, but although these activities are beneficial and help clean up marine ecosystems , they are not enough to stop this huge problem effectively and quickly. A new project is required that combines the cleaning of what has already accumulated in the oceans with prevention to avoid the introduction of new waste. However, such a project using conventional methods such as boats and nets would cost billions of dollars and thousands of years to implement. What then could be the solution?

We will tell you more about the Causes and consequences of the pollution of seas and oceans in this other AgroCorrn article.

What is The Ocean Cleanup and how does it work to clean the ocean

The Ocean Cleanup is a project that was born by the hand of the Dutch aeronautical engineering student Boyan Slat , who at just 17 years old proposed an effective plan to significantly clean the oceans of plastic and founded the organization in 2013. Although the plan is still in progress Its beginnings and its viability is being determined, the project aims to extract plastic waste from the seas and oceans through a passive and large-scale method that takes advantage of the natural impulse of the wind and marine currents for the concentration and collection of plastic .

In this way, Boyan Slat proposes the placement of a system of floating barriers strategically located in the North Pacific to collect the garbage attracted by the sea currents and the wind. The 600 meter long float will provide buoyancy and will consist of two arms attached to 3 meter deep submerged barriers that will prevent debris from escaping underneath.

The floating arms will be placed in a V-shape with the intention of concentrating the solid waste in the center, where a cylindrical platform will act as a container. Then, with the help of ships, these residues will be removed approximately every 45 days and will be returned to the mainland, where they can be recycled and sold for reuse, making the cleaning of plastics self-sustaining.

The Ocean Cleanup project aims to be installed on the five islets of garbage that correspond to the oceanic circular currents in the North and South Pacific Oceans, in the Indian Oceans and also in the North and South Atlantic Oceans. There, the system will capture plastics of a wide variety of sizes, from tiny pieces of millimeters in size to large debris such as massive fishing nets (ghost nets).

Image: theoceancleanup.com

More useful information about The Ocean Cleanup system

As nothing is ever perfect, there is also a limitation in this project, and that is that it will not capture plastic particles smaller than 0.01 mm, that is, some of the harmful microplastics that are easily distributed in the deep sea, even reaching the Arctic.

However, for the bulkier plastics that interfere with the process, the project has considered installing a conveyor belt that conveys these large waste to a shredder. This is helpful in preventing the breakdown of these huge plastics that are normally the cause of microscopic plastic particles. Large chunks of plastic turn into small debris particles as they decompose, so collecting these large debris will gradually reduce the entry of microplastics into marine ecosystems .

The main objective of the project is based on safeguarding the environment and marine life, so the cleaning of plastic pollution is carried out with respectful technology that ensures the well-being of marine ecosystems and the organisms that inhabit there. The barriers of The Ocean Cleanup system will move driven by the waves, allowing marine organisms to not be pushed towards the processing platform, but to be able to move away.

As a novelty in the prevention and care of the oceans and the organisms that inhabit there, the project, instead of using nets that can cause the death of thousands of marine animals by incidental capture, is committed to the use of solid floating screens that prevent them from animals get hooked. Being impenetrable screens, the current will flow under them, guiding marine organisms and trapping only the floating plastic. In addition, the system will always be supervised by workers who verify the welfare of marine life.

Image: theinertia.com

When does The Ocean Cleanup start to work to clean the oceans

The machine was already deployed on September 8, 2018 in California, off the coast of San Francisco (USA). It is expected to collect approximately 3,000 cubic meters of plastic garbage per collection every 45 days, or what is the same, as an Olympic swimming pool. Following this line, it is estimated that The Ocean Cleanup will be able to clean 50% of the waste from the Pacific garbage island in 5 years, after its total implementation in 2020, and up to 90% of the plastic in the oceans for the 2040.

This method aims to be a very effective weapon in the cleaning and prevention of marine litter by proposing a massive and economical system that takes advantage of the direction of the marine currents to get rid of plastic waste. However, although the system can claim to be a cost effective innovation, the budget to develop the project is estimated at $ 2 million. For this reason, both Boyan Slat and the team that collaborates with him have opened a web page where it is detailed how the project will be carried out and how interested people can collaborate financially to make this purpose possible.

If you want to read more articles similar to The Ocean Cleanup: how it works , we recommend that you enter our Pollution category .

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