Unmanned Ocean Cleanup System Begins Clearing Pacific Garbage Patch

A year after a bad start, Ocean Cleanup's open ocean garbage collection system is up and running again. The developers have been repairing it and making changes for more than six months. As it turns out, seven years of design and simulation isn't enough to challenge the Great Garbage Patch in a real, not a virtual ocean.

Ocean Cleanup, more precisely, a variant of the System 001 / B garbage collector, began scheduled operation in the Pacific Ocean on October 1, 2019. Several practical changes have been made to its design. In particular, the main body of the device, made of large floating tubes, is now separated from the networks. They run across the bowl-shaped structure and can stretch as debris builds up while remaining inside the floating base. This makes network congestion no longer a problem.

Another innovation missing from the original design is the parachute, which acts as a pulling mechanism. A year ago, during testing, engineers faced an unexpected problem: the speed of movement of light garbage and a heavy garbage collector with high windage turned out to be different all the time. The strong currents now carry the parachute with them, which pulls the bowl of the garbage collector through the accumulations of debris drifting on the surface.

In the meantime, System 001 / B is doing its job, the team is designing the next device - System 002. It will be larger and more voluminous than its predecessor, and will receive new nets and filters capable of capturing even microplastic particles. In the meantime, another extremely important question needs to be resolved - where and under what conditions will the collected garbage be processed when it is delivered to the shore?