Ridding the world's oceans of plastic waste might sound more like a job for Superman than for mere mOréals. But a Dutch nonprofit has a plan for tackling the problem, and a well-known liner shipping company is lending a hand.
In September, a vessel towing an advanced ocean cleanup system devised by the Dutch group "The Ocean Cleanup" departed from San Francisco Bay bound for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an accumulation zone of ocean plastics that's twice the size of Texas and is located halfway between Hawaii and California. In mid-October, the vessel arrived at the system's intended deployment location in the heart of the patch. In the coming months, the group will be testing the effectiveness of its "clean machine" technology.
The system itself, known as System 001, consists of a 2,000-foot-long U-shaped floating barrier with a 10-foot skirt attached below. It is designed to be propelled by wind and waves, passively catching and concentrating plastic debris in front of it—a process the group likens to "a giant Pac-Man skimming the surface of the ocean." System 001 was towed from the San Francisco Bay by the vessel Maersk Launcher, whose services were donated to the project by Danish container shipping conglomerate A.P. Møller-Maersk.
Guided by solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras, and navigation lights, the cleanup system is expected to return to land within six months of its deployment with a large load of plastic to be recycled into products that can be sold to fund future operations. You can follow System 001's progress at twitter.com/TheOceanCleanup.
Installation successfully completed. Thank you to the offshore crew for your work. We are ready to start the cleanup. pic.twitter.com/kiX39Aw1aw— The Ocean Cleanup (@TheOceanCleanup) October 17, 2018
A version of this article appears in our November 2018 print edition under the title "Clean machine."