Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the ocean and accumulate in five ocean garbage patches, including the largest one – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This concentration is located between Hawaii and California and is reportedly polluted with 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. While a massive undertaking, the Ocean Cleanup team has a plan.
Comparable to a man-made coastline where one doesn’t exist, the concept is to concentrate the plastic and then remove it back to the land where it can be recycled. The Ocean Cleanup team developed a system that consists of a long floater that sits at the surface of the water and skirt that hangs beneath it. The entire system is naturally “powered” by the buoyancy of the floater.
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According to the Ocean Cleanup, the skirt prevents debris from escaping underneath and leads it into the retention system. A cork line above the skirt prevents overtopping and keeps the skirt afloat. It’s important to note that marine life can safely maneuver beneath it.
Built with passive design, this cleanup system relies on natural forces, such as wind, waves, and currents to navigate the patches. While both the plastic and system are being carried by the same natural forces, there needs to be a differentiation in speed between the two in order to catch the plastics. So, a sea anchor is used to slow down the system and trap the plastics.