It’s no secret that the world’s oceans are filled with plastics – it’s one of the biggest environmental disasters facing humanity today. According to non-profit organisation The Ocean Cleanup however, a potential solution may be on the horizon...  

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch ©The Ocean Cleanup

Founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, and now a team of 80+ engineers and researchers, the organisation focuses on developing advanced technology to eliminate plastic from the world’s oceans. The team’s main project is a self-contained system, designed to passively capture and concentrate plastic debris, and a video briefing was held on Wednesday this week to inform the world’s press of an exciting development – the latest prototype system has successfully captured plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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The Ocean Cleanup is a self-contained system, designed to passively capture and concentrate plastic debris ©The Ocean Cleanup

The second prototype to be developed and tested by the team, this modified system uses the natural forces of the ocean to collect plastics, and as well as capturing plastic debris, managed to trap microplastics as small as 1mm within its test zone. 

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Captured plastic debris ©The Ocean Cleanup

Although awareness around the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is ever-increasing, less is known about the areas worst affected. Plastics and general waste accumulate largely in five huge ocean ‘garbage patches’, with the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California, and it’s here in which the team conduct their testing. “This first year of testing in the unforgivable environment of the high seas strongly indicates that our vision is attainable and that the beginning of our mission to rid the ocean of plastic garbage, [...], is within our sights,” Boyan, the organisation’s founder, claimed during the briefing. 

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch lies between Hawaii and California ©The Ocean Cleanup

A thrilling development indeed – but what’s next? The Ocean Cleanup team plan to take their learnings from this prototype forward, in order to further improve and optimise the technology. The new system will hopefully be able to retain the plastics it collects for long periods of time, before being able to deliver them to land for recycling. 

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