The North Sea prototype, the first system to remove plastic debris from the ocean to be tested at sea. (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)
First ambitious ocean-cleansing project presented
Saturday, June 25, 2016, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
At a port in The Hague, Dutch environment minister Sharon Dijksma has launched the biggest prototype clean-up boom in an attempt to clear the Pacific of its plastic debris.
The North Sea prototype -- an 100 metre-long barrier that will be towed 12 miles (20km) out to sea for a year of sensor-monitored tests -- was designed by The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic.
The foundation representatives explained that the next step is to scale the barrier up for real-life trials off the Japanese coast at the end of next year, The Guardian newspaper reported.
In statements to this news media, Minister Dijksma pointed out that her government, which part-funded the test, was fully backing the project, which will eventually cost about GBP 230 million (EUR 300 million).
“We can use our political pressure with other governments, businesses and the international institutions to fund this on an even bigger scale,” she said. “We are used to fronting public-private [partnerships] like this. It is not new for us. When it is a success, philanthropists will be standing in line asking to join us.”
Boyan Slat, CEO and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, stressed: “This is a historic day on the path toward clean oceans. A successful outcome of this test should put us on track to deploy the first operational pilot system in late 2017.”
He also noted that a successful test does not necessarily mean the prototype will survive. “I estimate there is a 30 per cent chance the system will break, but either way it will be a good test.”
The snake-like ocean barrier is made out of vulcanised rubber and works by harnessing sea currents to passively funnel floating rubbish – often just millimetres wide – into a cone.
A cable sub-system will anchor the structure at depths of up to 4,500 metres – almost twice as far down as has even been done before – keeping it in place so it can trap the rubbish for periodic collection by boats
A fully scaled-up barrier would be the most ambitious ocean-cleansing project yet, capturing about half of the plastic soup that circles the north Pacific gyre – one of several large systems of rotating ocean currents – within a decade.
The Dutch government is so convinced of its feasibility that thay are to see if there is a possibility to put this project in place with the Indonesian government too.
The Indonesian archipelago has the world’s second-highest concentration of shoreline marine debris after Sicily, which has 231 items per square metre.
“I hope that with the help of the Dutch government, Boyan’s prototype will turn out to be the successful solution for cleaning up the mid-ocean gyres. This is crucial to prevent permanent damage to the environment and marine life, due to the degradation and fragmentation of plastic waste materials,” the environment minister concluded.