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The Ocean Cleanup is launching its most efficient technology yet

After having impressive success with its second plastic-collecting design, the only way is up for the team at The Ocean Cleanup. To rid our ocean of its largest mass of pollution, the organisation is launching its third and most efficient marine clean-up technology to date.

If you’ve visited the Thred website before, chances are you’ve heard us chattering about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).

The GPGP is a gigantic mass of plastic, fishing nets, and other human-made, non-biodegradable debris that spans the ocean between California and Hawaii. It’s total size makes up an estimated 1.6 million km2 across the Pacific Ocean – yes, it’s utterly huge.

Though it was only discovered in 1997, the GPGP has been wreaking havoc on marine animals like whales, dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and other fish for decades. Marine creatures are known to suffocate amidst the mess or accidentally ingest the debris during feeding.

Scientists believe the GPGP started forming in the 70s, when plastic became a household staple around the world. Fast forward to today, and putting a stop to its growth hasn’t been easy, with around 12 million tons of plastic continuing to be dumped in our oceans every year.

A look at samples from the patch suggests that no country can carry the sole blame. Plastic packaging, films, and fishing nets can be traced back to virtually every nation on the planet – hence why no government has stepped up or volunteered to solve the issue.

Enter, The Ocean Cleanup, an organisation that has not only been working to excavate the visible garbage floating on the surface, but also collecting the elusive microplastics that drift several feet below the surface.

Serious innovation has taken place to do so, in particular because disturbing microscopic organisms, such as plankton and phytoplankton, would be devastating to the food chain and the surrounding ecosystem.

Developing the necessary scales and technologies to tackle this huge task has been a matter of trial and error. After literal years of effort, finalised designs called System 001 and System 002 have managed to remove significant sections of plastic from the Pacific.

In July of this year, The Ocean Cleanup reported they had already collected 108,526kg of plastic from the GPGP using System 002. It’s very difficult to imagine this figure, so just know that this is heavier than the combined weight of 2.5 Boeing 737 airplanes. Right on!

It only gets better, as studies suggest that if plastic catches weighing 100,000kg are consistent, it will only take 1,000 more hauls to completely clear the Great Pacific Garbage Patch altogether.

The total number of necessary hauls could soon be reduced too, now that The Ocean Cleanup has just developed a new ocean-plastic-collecting design. The third design in fleets is called System 003 (keeping names simple, eh?) and is said to be its most efficient and effective ocean pollution retrieval system yet.

Unlike the first and second models, System 003 will only use three vessels equipped with drones to identify where waste has been densely collected by currents.

It’s worth noting that when fewer ships are necessary, the carbon footprint of the collection job is reduced.

Pulled by the ships, a gigantic 2,500 metre-wide and 4-metre-deep net system will sweep and funnel the debris. Immediately after being pulled onto the ship, the waste will be sorted, placed into shipping containers, and sent to processing plants for recycling or repurposing.

Just one System003 won’t be enough, apparently, as the organisation’s plan is to have at least ten fleets of the design ready to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

You’ve got to hand it to The Ocean Cleanup, they’re doing the work that – globally – no government is willing to lend a hand for. Not to mention, they’re constantly asking the necessary questions to take their methods to the next level.

If you’re interested in learning more about their work or keeping an eye on their progress, visit their website for links to their social channels and access to occasional live streams.