Innovations and protection: Ocean Cleanup for plastic-free seas

Technologies, research and systems: the program of the foundation launched by Boyan Slat in 2013 to save the oceans from pollution

Ocean Cleanup: Ocean Cleanup working to recover plastic
Ocean Cleanup working to recover plastic (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

Protect the sea and free it from plastic: it is the mission of Ocean Cleanup, a foundation that for years now has been developing technologies capable of countering pollution from petroleum-derived waste in the oceans. The organization, created by Boyan Slat in 2013, has given rise to numerous projects and initiatives aimed at solving an essential problem for the protection of marine system.

To understand how important the problem is, just think that every year they are thrown in sea 8 million tons of plastic. The material takes centuries to decompose, but in the meantime it shatters into tiny pieces, the so-called microplastic, that invade the depths of the oceans, poison the fish and, consequently, also those who consume them.

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Ocean Cleanup: The new Ocean Cleanup system
The new Ocean Cleanup system (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

The theme of sustainability is fundamental for diving activities

Il sustainability theme on the other hand it is essential for those who practice underwater fishing. A deep feeling that demonstrates the close bond with Nature and respect for the sea, fundamental values ​​that anyone who practices this sport knows and pursues.

The question therefore affects everyone, not only governments, but also individuals, such as i diving fishermen who increasingly find themselves having to deal with prey that has ingested plastic, intoxicated by a pollution that seems destined to continue to grow. To all this is added the difficulty of finding a system that is effective after the use of the networks has proved to be useless and particularly expensive.

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Ocean Cleanup: Plastic collected by Ocean Cleanup
Plastic collected by Ocean Cleanup (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

A huge floating tube 2 km long and the force of the wind

Ocean Cleanup starts from a different idea, namely that of permanently eliminating plastic from the oceans using a "passive" method. The idea? Harness the forces of currents and wind. In 2018, the very first Ocean Cleanup System was born, a plant made up of a gigantic floating tube with a U shape and two kilometers long capable of concentrating the plastic in a single point, thus making collection easier.

After the first tests, made difficult by the too high waves and a very strong current, a new prototype was created, this time equipped with an anchor positioned at a depth of 600 meters and a particular rigid panel capable of completely blocking the plastic . The plant thus built in just one month managed to collect the beauty of 5 tons of plastic, breaking every record.

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Ocean Cleanup: An Ocean Cleanup vessel
An Ocean Cleanup vessel (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

War against the pollution of all seas starting from the fluvial one

The draft Ocean Cleanup but it didn't stop there. In fact, Boyan Slat wanted to investigate another aspect related to plastic pollution, following the path taken before being dispersed into the sea. In fact, scientific studies have shown that 80 percent of marine pollution starts from rivers. This is where the plastic that invades the waters starts and risks never being recovered.

From here Interceptor was born, a project that aims to combat river pollution. It is a solar-powered catamaran that intercepts waste and channels it into a system, using the power of the current. Inside the shuttle, the plastic is divided into six containers that have a capacity of 50 cubic meters each and can collect 50.000 kg of plastic every day.

Ocean Cleanup's tireless work doesn't stop there, however. In fact, the foundation's activity has gone even further with the aim of following the path made by plastic in water. A titanic undertaking that has allowed the organization to map vast areas, monitor the level of pollution and fuel research to protect damaged ecosystems.

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Ocean Cleanup: Ocean Cleanup at work in the ocean
Ocean Cleanup at work in the ocean (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

Recycling, innovation and the future of the sea in a decisive unicum

With a view to a recycling policy, the organization has chosen to reuse the plastic bags recovered in sea. Each piece is labelled, registered and sealed in special containers to trace its journey. In the end, sunglasses are designed with the particles that have been recovered. Once the plastic is recovered from the sea it arrives in Holland. Ocean Cleanup then selects it according to the composition between fibrous plastic and hard plastic.

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Ocean Cleanup: Plastic recovered from Ocean Cleanup
Plastic recovered by Ocean Cleanup (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

Glasses made from too much waste from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…

The sunglasses and case are made entirely from fibrous plastic sourced from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The processing involves shredding, washing, then drying and extrusion. Proceeds from the sale are used for new ocean cleanup programs. A important contribution if we think that the proceeds of a single pair of glasses can help clean up an area equivalent to 24 football fields.

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Ocean Cleanup: The glasses produced by Ocean Cleanup
The glasses produced by Ocean Cleanup (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)

“Remove 90 percent of floating plastic by 2040”

We want to remove 90 percent of floating plastic by 2040.", announced a spokesman for the organization which is now betting everything on System 003, a huge barrier of nets and floats, 2,5 kilometers long, more efficient and larger than previous versions.

“When it comes to cleaning up the oceans, size matters”, Ocean Cleanup executives explained in a statement. “Larger systems mean fewer support vessels, which are the biggest cost driver and biggest source of carbon emissions in our operations.”

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Ocean Cleanup: Ocean Cleanup researchers at work
Ocean Cleanup researchers at work (Photo: The Ocean Cleanup)