The Ocean Cleanup Announces First Successful Field Test In Great Pacific Garbage Patch

October 8th was a momentous day for The Ocean Cleanup.

The non-profit, founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat at just 18 years old, has the ambitious goal of removing 90% of floating ocean plastic pollution by 2040.

The team celebrated October 8th as “the moment we knew that cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is possible.”

The team is concentrating their energy on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which they note “is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world and is located between Hawaii and California.”

There, the team conducted a successful field test of System 002, nicknamed Jenny. System 002 is an 800-meter long device towed from a boat that acts as an extremely durable net and skims plastic from the surface of the ocean.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Following setbacks with Wilson and System 001/B, a lot was at stake with System 002,” the group wrote on Twitter. “So, proof of technology is a big accomplishment for the team. It’s amazing to see what a small but passionate group of people is capable of.”

Critics have noted that skimming plastic from the surface of the ocean does little to mitigate the many more thousands of pounds of waste that are below the surface.

Photo: flickr/Jessie Sgouros

However, The Ocean Cleanup defends its approach by noting the importance of “shutting off the tap” and minimizing plastic waste at the source, as well as preventing large, surface-level plastics from breaking into smaller pieces.

“The obvious answer to this is that the sooner the patches have been cleaned up, the sooner they stop causing harm. Less obvious is the fact that the longer we wait, the more harmful the accumulated plastic becomes. While the true degradation of plastic into harmless compounds is predicted to take centuries, the sun and waves do break down the objects into smaller and smaller pieces over time,” founder Boyan Slat wrote on the organization’s blog.

“For example, a single crate will ultimately turn into hundreds of thousands of microplastic particles. Every piece of plastic has the potential to cause damage, so the higher the plastic count, the greater risk of harm the plastic might pose to the oceans,” he continued.

The Ocean Cleanup has made promising progress on an extraordinarily difficult problem. And while there is still much to be done, they’re celebrating their success for now.

Keep up with them on Facebook, Twitter, or at their official site here!

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