Delft, The Netherlands – The Ocean Cleanup plans to start extracting plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months. It has developed technology based on floating TPU to catch the debris, and a prototype has already been tested successfully in the North Sea.
At the heart of the system is a fleet of fibre-reinforced thermoplastic polyurethane screens. The idea is to allow ocean currents to do the work, and an installation of U-shaped screens has been designed to channel the debris to a central point where it can be extracted and shipped to shore for recycling.
The screens are designed to drift rather than being fixed to the ocean floor, with sea anchors to ensure the screens move more slowly than the plastic debris. The long floating barriers act a little like an artificial coastline, allowing the ocean currents to concentrate the debris.
Testing of the system off the west coast of the US is planned for later this year, and the first deployment within the garbage patch itself should be made in the first half of 2018. The team anticipate that half of the garbage patch could be cleaned in five years, according to their computer models. It has raised more than $30m to fund the project.