login register unsubscribe from alerts forgot password? spacer
      
Water Today Title August 7, 2020

HOMEspacer | ABOUT spacer | MAPS spacer | ADVISORY INFO spacer | A TO Z spacer | RENEWABLES spacer | WATER ALERTS spacer SIGN-UPspacer | LOGIN


Features

Update 2019/12/31
Plastics



brought to you in part by

Pure Element

THE PLASTIC JOURNEY – TURNING THE PROBLEM INTO A SOLUTION




By Suzanne Forcese

Mission One in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) cleanup was successfully completed in Vancouver, British Columbia, on December 12, 2019. The first batch of ocean plastic trash – 60 one cubic metre bags including massive ghost nets and microplastics down to 1 millimetre in size -- was successfully brought to shore by The Ocean Cleanup team headed by the 25 year old Dutch inventor and entrepreneur, Boyan Slat, the Founder and CEO.

Slat, who calls himself an inventor since birth, announced that The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit organization, is continuing to develop advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastics through a passive plastic collection by means of the natural forces of the ocean.

WaterToday reached out to the Ocean Cleanup team to learn more of the Mission. “We are commemorating the end of the First Mission as well as looking ahead for cleanup and what to do with the plastic,” Slat said.

Boyan Slat, CEO and Founder in Vancouver, Canada, December 12,2019, explaining the next steps, turning the trash into beautiful sustainable products to help fund the continuation of the cleanup. Courtesy The Ocean Cleanup.

The Interceptor
Boyan Slat, CEO and Founder in Vancouver, Canada, December 12,2019, explaining the next steps, turning the trash into beautiful sustainable products to help fund the continuation of the cleanup. Courtesy The Ocean Cleanup.


The Plastic Journey route from cleanup to beautiful collector item product is a vision that Slat began detailing at the age of 16 when on a scuba diving trip to Greece where he was shocked to find “more plastic than fish”. What surprised him even more, after digging deeper into the plastic pollution problem, was that no one had made serious attempts to combat the issues. The question “Why don’t we clean it up?” haunted him to the point of researching answers for a high school science project. It quickly became clear that a cleanup using vessels and nets would take thousands of years, cost tens of billions of dollars, be harmful to sea life and lead to large amounts of carbon emissions.

There are 5 major plastic accumulation zones in the world where ocean currents converge. These accumulation zones are commonly called “garbage patches”. The vast majority of ocean plastic will not go away by itself but slowly break down into microplastics. “The garbage patches are at least 20 years old and they exist in the toughest areas of the planet where waves are up to 14 metres in height. Wind and currents in this highly destructive environment make the clean-up very difficult.”

After a year of experimenting with ideas and simple tests, Slat came up with the idea to develop a passive collection system using the ocean currents to his advantage and let them be the driving force behind catching and concentrating the plastic. “Instead of going after the plastic you could let the plastic come to you.”

Following his high school graduation, Slat presented his initial idea at a TEDx conference in 2012. While beginning his studies in Aerospace Engineering he continued working on his concept. Six months into his university studies he dropped out to found The Ocean Cleanup with just 300 Euros of savings as a starting capital.

But his concept was not gaining traction. Then one night in March 2013 his TEDx Talk went viral. In a matter of days, The Ocean Cleanup collected 90,000 USD allowing Slat to recruit his initial team. Today the Team consists of more than 90 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers, headquartered in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

“Our research model, calibrated with data from multi-vessel and aircraft surveys, predicted at least 79 thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million square kilometres; a figure 4-16 times higher than previously reported. We explain this difference through the use of more robust methods to quantify larger debris.”

Over three-quarters of the GPGP mass was carried by debris larger than 5 cm and at least 46% was comprised of fishing nets. Microplastics accounted for 8% of the total mass.

“Our results estimate 1.8 trillion pieces floating in the GPGP. Ocean plastic pollution within the GPGP is increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.”

The Ocean Cleanup Team plans to deploy a fleet of long floating barriers that act like an artificial coastline enabling wind, waves and currents to passively catch and concentrate the plastic. Video Courtesy The Ocean Cleanup.


Video courtesy of the Ocean Cleanup


The goal of The Ocean Cleanup is using technology to reduce the world’s oceans of plastics by 50% in a series of missions over the next 5 years. “To solve the problem, we need to clean the legacy. But if we don’t tackle the source side we would have to continue forever.”

Slat’s team discovered that rivers are the main source of plastic pollution going into the ocean. “We found that 1% of rivers is responsible for 80% of the problem.”

Always seeing problems as opportunities for solutions, Slat and the team developed The Interceptor. “It is the world’s first scalable river plastic solution.”

The Interceptor
Rotterdam, October 26,2019, The Ocean Cleanup unveils The Interceptor, the first scalable river cleanup technology, introduced by Boyan Slat. Courtesy The Ocean Cleanup.


Rivers carry plastic with their current. That brings the plastic to the barrier which concentrates the plastic to the mouth of The Interceptor where a conveyor belt scoops the plastic out of the water and distributes it into dumpsters to be removed for recycling. “We already have two Interceptors in operation. One is in Jakarta, Indonesia and the other is in Klang, Malaysia. We are scaling up each year in the 1000 heaviest polluting rivers over the next 5 years.”

The Interceptor is capable of harvesting 50,000 kilograms of trash a day.

Now that the tools are available to clean up the ocean and prevent further plastic from being carried to the ocean, a big question still remains. What do we do with the trash?

Slat announced that this ocean plastic trash will be transformed into sustainable products that will be sold to help fund the continuation of the cleanup operations and to confirm the origin of these future products, The Ocean Cleanup has worked with DNV GL, an international classification society to verify plastic that is removed from the ocean.

This will be the first time products are to be made fully from the GPGP. If all goes well the organization expects to launch their premier product in September 2020.

“This is not just any plastic. This is plastic from the GPGP – it has a story. We are going to turn it into beautiful sustainable products and 100% of the proceeds are going to the continuation of the cleanup. Because of the research we have been doing we believe this is possible,” Slat adds.

By contributing $50 to the limited-edition collector’s item of beautifully designed GPGP plastic everyone has an opportunity to change a problem into a solution.

“Once the patch is cleaned t will be a thing of the past. The owners of the product will have piece of history,” Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup affirms.




suzanne.f@watertoday.ca



Related info

bullet A to Z
bullet Advisory Maps


For articles published before 2017, please email or call us

Have a question? Give us a call 613-501-0175

All rights reserved 2020 - WATERTODAY - This material may not be reproduced in whole or in part and may not be distributed,
publicly performed, proxy cached or otherwise used, except with express permission.