plastic waste in water

The Ocean Cleanup Project Update

Latest On the Ocean Cleanup effort to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Ocean Cleanup Giant Floating Boom that set sail from San Francisco last September has been towed back to port due to structural failure that was discovered late December, 2019. According to the most recent recent Tweet (3:15 AM – 18 Jan 2019) at the time of this post,

System 001 safely made it back to Hawaii. Now steadily anchored in Hilo Bay where it will receive a complete above and underwater inspection in the next days. This marks the end of the 1st attempt to deploy our full scale cleanup system and the start of our countdown to relaunch.

Founder & CEO Boyan Slat wrote in his blog post on 31 DECEMBER 2018:

Due to a structural malfunctioning of the cleanup system, today we made the decision to return to port earlier than planned. We will set sail as soon as an appropriate weather window is available.

On Saturday, December 29th, during a regular inspection of the cleanup system, our offshore crew discovered that an 18-meter end-section had detached from the rest of the system. Although it is too early to confirm the cause of the malfunction, we hypothesize that material fatigue (caused by about 106 load cycles), combined with a local stress concentration, caused a fracture in the HDPE floater.

It’s important to note that both the 580-meter main section and the 18-meter end section are both completely stable. Also, because no material was lost, there were no safety risks for the crew, environment or passing marine traffic.

The Ocean Cleanup project

Slat stated that this represents a disappointment to be ending this maiden voyage deployment early, but setbacks are to be expected when fast tracking new technology. Also, they will be able to make upgrades to the system with the aim of solving the plastic retention issue that was discovered. In addition to the mountains of data that was collected and is ready to be analyzed, the Maersk Transporter recovered +2000 kg of plastic  from the ocean garbage patch.

The initial staging by the Ocean Cleanup represents a milestone in global efforts to turn around the devastation we are just beginning to understand the implications of, on not just on the environment, but on the future of humanity on the planet. The project should be hailed as one of the few solutions that are being tried to tackle the existing plastic pollution that has already accumulated.

What Can You Do To Help Clean Up Plastic?

There is so much more that can be done, not just in remediation, but also in prevention. People are beginning to realize that we ALL need to cut back on our plastic consumption. It has been a cheap and efficient packaging system that we have become used. We need to find alternatives to plastic proliferation, from the individual consumer to the giant corporations that we may buy our products from. Grassroots efforts are taking hold in our first world countries to bring awareness to this issue. We hope the next generation that is coming into its own will take up and continue to demand a cleaner planet for their future and the generations to come. We all have choices we can make when we purchase food, clothes, what restaurants we eat at, and more. In the United States, local and state legislation is being seen to reduce single-use plastics.

For more actions you can take as an individual, see this blogpost, 17 things you can do to reduce plastic use.