In an attempt to clean up oceans and get rid of the plastic menace, a giant floating boom has been deployed at San Francisco Bay. The initiative was taken by The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit organization. The organisation has claimed that system is first-of-its-kind and will remain for a two-week trial before continuing its journey towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastics. Situated halfway between Hawaii and California, the garbage patch contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and covers an area twice the size of Texas.
The cleanup system — System 001 — consists of a 600-meter-long U-shaped floating barrier with a three-meter skirt attached below. The system is designed to be propelled by wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris in front of it. Due to its shape, the debris will be funnelled to the centre of the system.
Moving slightly faster than the plastic, the system will act like a giant Pac-Man, skimming the surface of the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup anticipates that the first plastic will be collected and returned to land within six months after deployment. After returning the plastic to land, the organisation plans to recycle the material into products and use the proceeds to help fund the cleanup operations.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the organisation said: “While the main objective of System 001 is to prove the technology and start the cleanup, a secondary goal is to collect performance data to improve the design for future deployments.” Hence, the system is equipped with solar-powered and satellite-connected sensors, cameras and navigation lights to communicate the position of the system to passing marine traffic and enable extensive monitoring of the system and the environment.
The Ocean Cleanup aims to have a fleet of 60 systems focused on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the next two years. The organisation, which was founded by a Dutch innovator Boyan Slat, projects that the full fleet can remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years’ time.
“This is in line with The Ocean Cleanup’s ultimate goal: reducing the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans by at least 90% by 2040,” the organisation said.
If Boyan Slat-led organisation succeeds in its endeavour, India could learn from the new system and use it to clean Mumbai coastline. Last month, the Mumbai civic body told the Bombay High Court that garbage and solid waste thrown into open stormwater drains by people were causing massive pollution along the metropolitan city’s coastline.
In an affidavit filed before the court, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had said: “There are 107 stormwater drain outfalls which drain into the Arabian sea directly. In suburbs and extended suburbs, open stormwater drains are constructed on both sides of the road. The flow from such open drains is discharged into nullahs, creeks or the sea.”
It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of the pollution in the ocean is from lands with marine debris, especially plastics. This year in January, it was reported that India would set up six automated ocean pollution observation system – three along the east coast and three along the west coast – to keep a tab on ocean pollution levels.