A giant “Pac-man” is about to go chomping in the Pacific Ocean and it’s sitting at San Francisco harbor just finishing some last-minute tune-ups.
The autonomous plastic-sweeper has a 600-meter long tube that floats at the surface of the water with a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt below it to catch plastic waste. It will use wind and surface waves to move around the area, allowing it to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
“On September 8, we will launch the world’s first ocean cleanup system from our assembly yard in Alameda, through the San Francisco Bay, toward the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” organizers of the project revealed.
The team worked on the contraption for six months at the sheltered body of water called Seaplane Lagoon. The location is located beside the firm’s assembly yard in Alameda.
On September 7, the system will be towed with the Maersk Launcher at Anchorage 9. The system is nicknamed “Wilson” in reference to the volleyball from the film Castaway, starring Tom Hanks.
It will be towed past Alcatraz, then beneath the Golden Gate bridge before heading out to the Pacific Ocean. It will undergo two weeks of operational testing around 250 nautical miles from shore before being deployed at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The current system is a radically redesigned version after the original version was found to have moved too much due to the waves.
CEO Boyan Slat calls the system a “giant wind-and-wave-powered Pac-Man.”
Every few months, the autonomously collected plastic waste will be hauled off by another vessel to land in order to be recycled. Small plastics just millimeters in size, large debris, and discarded fishing nets (ghost nets) will all be gobbled up by this system.
The firm said: “Models show that a full-scale cleanup system roll-out (a fleet of approximately 60 systems) could clean 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.
“After fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040.
“The screen is the part of the system that is meant to concentrate the subsurface plastic against the floaters.
“It also plays an important role in the drifting behavior of the system once it is fully deployed to freely move on the currents and the wind.
“The 120-meter system, the longest we have deployed to date, has the similar screen set up as it will be on the full system.”
A three-year mapping effort conducted by The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities, and an aerial sensor company revealed that 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons can be found at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is located between Hawaii and California and encompasses an area that is three times the size of France. The patch is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on the planet. And, it’s getting worse, the study found.
According to Boyan Slat: “To be able to solve a problem, we believe it is essential to first understand it.
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“These results provide us with key data to develop and test our cleanup technology, but it also underlines the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem.
“Since the results indicate that the amount of hazardous microplastics is set to increase more than tenfold if left to fragment, the time to start is now.”
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