Sadly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a wide swath of ocean between the U.S. coast and Japan is an enormous vortex of trash. A gyre, or system of currents, surrounds the area and sucks debris and litter into its rotation, trapping hundreds of millions of kilograms of plastic waste within its 20 million square kilometers.
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Back in 2018, The Ocean Cleanup engineered a slow-moving apparatus called System 001 designed to wade through the patch to retrieve garbage with a massive net. The nonprofit, which wants to remove 90 percent of floating plastic by 2040, is now conceptualizing its third iteration of the machine that will be the largest and most efficient model to date. “When it comes to cleaning the oceans, size matters,” a statement about the new technology says. “Bigger systems mean fewer support vessels, which are the main cost driver (and the main carbon emitter) in our operations. In short, bigger systems mean a lower cost per kilogram.” System 002 removed more than 100,000 kilograms of plastic as of July 2022.
In a newly produced concept video, The Ocean Cleanup suggests that System 3 will now be comprised of three vessels that rely on drones to identify waste hotspots. The ships will haul a massive 2,500-meter wide and four-meter deep net system that sweeps the targeted areas to gather debris and funnel it to a sizable retention zone. Once collected and hauled from the water, the waste is organized into shipping containers and sent for recycling or repurposing.
The Ocean Cleanup plans to create a fleet of ten System 03 machines in the coming months, which the organization estimates will be powerful enough to restore much of the area. You can follow its progress on Twitter and Instagram, and head to its site for occasional live streams.