By Rachael Meyer, Basten Gokkon
It had rained all morning across Jakarta on the first Tuesday in February. The rivers in the Indonesian capital quickly filled up, carrying all kinds of debris toward the Java Sea. In one of the city's largest waterways, a Dutch-made device was trapping some of the trash to prevent it from washing out into the ocean.
Competing Designs?<p>The river-cleaning project is part of The Ocean Cleanup's overall goal to reduce the amount of trash in the ocean. CEO Boyan Slat founded the organization in 2013 to create an open-ocean device that would remove all plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years. After many iterations and much media attention and criticism from scientists, a 160-meter (525-foot) test design <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/10/the-ocean-cleanup-successfully-collects-ocean-plastic-aims-to-scale-design/" target="_blank">collected and retained ocean plastic for the first time</a> in October last year.</p><p>Over the course of the project, many scientists encouraged the organization to focus its efforts on rivers, where they said a cleanup device would be more effective. TOC took heed in 2015, when it began developing the Interceptor.</p><p>The Interceptor is powered by solar panels atop its white exterior shell. Each device's unique number is painted on one of its long sleek sides, facing to the banks of the river. At water level, a long waste barrier protrudes upstream, allowing the force of the current to push trash toward the device's mouth. There, a conveyor belt lifts debris out of the water and deposits it onto a platform inside the device that shuttles trash to one of six dumpsters. Once the containers are full, a local team takes them to shore to be emptied.</p><p>The latest Interceptor design can extract 50,000 kilograms (110,000 pounds) of plastic per day — double that under "optimal conditions" — and can hold 50 cubic meters (1,770 cubic feet) of garbage, according to TOC's website. The prototype in Jakarta has about one-fourth to one-fifth that capacity, and holds the trash in small crates instead of dumpsters. As a result, it needs to be maintained and emptied more frequently.</p>
Getting the Public Involved in Trash<p>For both organizations, finding a solution to river pollution goes beyond the cleanup devices.</p><p>"They're providing an opportunity to educate the public and inspire people to become part of the solution," Kellett said of the three devices his company deployed in Baltimore, which have spurred countless local environmental activities and educational programs.</p><p>According to Worp, several school groups have visited the Interceptor prototype in Jakarta. Community engagement is important to The Ocean Cleanup because it ultimately relies on local organizations to operate and maintain the devices.</p><p>Some scientists are skeptical about TOC's goal of targeting so many rivers in vastly different parts of the world. Andrew Gray, a hydrologist at the University of California, Riverside, studies small mountainous watersheds that expel a large amount of sediment to the ocean during strong storms. These storms can be destructive to any man-made device, he said.</p><p>"[These storms] that are probably discharging most of the plastics, are the kinds of events that you're not going to have a trash boom up because the hydrodynamics are far too aggressive," he said.</p><p>Gray also said the Interceptor would need to be incredibly versatile to accommodate a variety of river sizes.</p><p>Win Cowger, a graduate student in Gray's lab, pointed out the unpredictability of natural systems.</p><p>"Whenever you apply one solution — one device — to a broad range of ecosystems and a broad range of circumstances, it tends to have some implications that you might not have expected," he said.</p>
Rainy Days in Jakarta<p>Early this year, Jakarta experienced one of its worst flooding disasters in recent years. Torrential rain, with a record-breaking intensity, showered Greater Jakarta for almost 16 hours through New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day. Most of the city's rivers flooded their surroundings. The Interceptor was found damaged after its waste barrier broke loose.</p><p>The water volume in the Cengkareng drain increased significantly, but never overflowed its banks, according to Muhammad Khusen, the leader of a waste-collecting worker group in the subdistrict where the Interceptor is located. He said it was the river's strong current that damaged the device's waste barrier, but TOC engineers were able to repair it the following day.</p><p>When Mongabay visited the device a few weeks later, in February, the rains were constant, albeit less intense than at the start of the year. While the Interceptor was undamaged, waste had piled up on the barrier and clogged up the device's opening.</p><p>Workers were using long poles to try to break up the clog, which included a lot of large organic material like branches, bamboo and banana tree trunks, and feed the debris bit by bit into the Interceptor.</p><p>A team of three workers has been assigned to collect the trash and maintain the device every day, Khusen said. But on the day of Mongabay's visit, he had to call in reinforcements. As many as 10 workers were on hand throughout the afternoon to help clean up the collected debris after an earlier attempt failed to get much done. When the workers went home at 3 p.m., only about 20 percent of the trapped debris had been taken out.</p>
- Even Your Sea Salt Contains Microplastics - EcoWatch ›
- 100 Trash Barriers to Be Installed in Bali Rivers to Reduce Plastic ... ›
- Ocean Cleanup Team Unveils Solar Powered 'Interceptor' to Collect ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
"System 001"—which consists of a 600-meter-long floating pipe with a tapered 3-meter skirt attached underneath designed to catch debris—"is attracting and concentrating plastic, but not yet retaining it," the organization admitted Tuesday.
- 22-Year-Old Raises $21.7 Million to Rid Pacific Ocean of Plastic ›
- The Ocean Cleanup Readies Historic Launch But Challenges Lie ... ›
Five years ago, then-teenager Boyan Slat made headlines around the world for his plastic-capturing concept. Now at the age of 23, the Dutch inventor is ready to live his dream of cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a whirling vortex of trash and plastics floating off the coast of California.
The Ocean Cleanup is preparing to launch its highly anticipated cleanup system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But the contraption's final design looks slightly different from the original vision.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floating off the coast of California now measures 1.6 million square kilometers (about 1 million square miles), according to a startling new study. To put that into perspective, the clump of trash is about the size of three Frances, or twice the size of Texas.
Not only that, the analysis, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, also revealed that the massive Pacific trash vortex contains up to 16 times more plastic than previous estimates—and could rapidly get worse.
- Adidas Sold a Million Shoes Made of Ocean Plastic ›
- Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years ›
The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation aiming to eliminate ocean plastic, unveiled Thursday a major design update to its highly vaunted cleanup system and announced that the technology will be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
The whale was an adult male that weighed about 2 tons. Local authorities were forced to euthanize the distressed animal on Jan. 28 after repeatedly stranding itself off the shallow waters of Sotra, an island near Norway's southwestern coast.
Boyan Slat, the 22-year-old Dutch inventor and CEO behind The Ocean Cleanup, announced today preliminary results of the organization's latest major research mission, the Aerial Expedition, the first-ever aerial survey of an ocean garbage patch.
Boyan Slat next to Ocean Force One, which will help accurately quantify the ocean's biggest and most harmful debris—discarded fishing gear called ghost nets.The Ocean Cleanup
"One of the things that we are already able to share is right at the edge of [the Great Pacific Garbage Patch], we came across more objects than we were expecting to find in the center of the garbage patch," Slat said at a press conference at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California.
"During a period of just two and a half hours, our crew observed more than a thousand large objects of plastic floating underneath this aircraft," he continued. "Although we still need to get a detailed analysis of the results, it's really quite safe to say that it's worse than we thought. Again, this underlines the urgency of why we need to clean it up and that we really need to take care of the plastic that's already out there in the ocean."
The Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition aims to accurately measure a particularly large and harmful type of marine debris known as ghost nets. The Ocean Cleanup crew determined that quantifying such objects will help resolve the "last piece of our puzzle" following last year's Mega Expedition, a 30-day reconnaissance mission that produced the first high-resolution map of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but came short in determining just how much plastic was in the ocean, especially larger items.
Items the crew spotted from yesterday's first test flight included ghost nets, discarded fishing gear, buoys, crates and other unidentifiable objects. The Ocean Cleanup
"We discovered that the conventional method of measuring ocean plastic, using nets of less than a meter (3 ft) wide, was inaccurate because it seriously underestimated the total amount of plastic. The reason for this is simple: the larger the objects, the rarer they are by count," the Ocean Cleanup team said.
So, instead of using boats to count ocean plastic, the team turned to planes. To conduct their aerial survey, a C130 Hercules aircraft was fitted with state-of-art sensors from Teledyne Optech, whose Coastal Zone Mapping and Imaging Lidar (CZMIL) can detect objects at oceanic depths of tens of meters. This technology can also provide researchers with a weight estimate by registering the size of the found objects.
The aircraft, dubbed Ocean Force One, is scheduled to make several flights from Sept. 26 to Oct. 7. These low-speed, low-altitude flights will inspect an estimated 6,000 square kilometers of the ocean, more than 300 times the area explored at the Mega Expedition.
Yesterday, mission crew completed the first of two test flights above Moffett Airfield to calibrate the aircraft's ocean plastic sensors and familiarize themselves with the survey protocol. The aircraft flew along the Northern boundary of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the plastic accumulation zone between Hawaii and California.
The Aerial Expedition's findings will be combined with the data collected on the Mega Expedition, resulting in a study expected to be published in early 2017.
In the video below, Slat gives a tour of the aircraft and the concept behind the mission:
"In order to solve the plastic pollution problem, it is essential to understand its dimensions," Julia Reisser, oceanographer and expedition leader, wrote in a blog post. "Knowing how much and what kind of plastic has accumulated in the ocean garbage patches is especially important. This determines the design of cleanup systems, the logistics of hauling plastic back to shore, the methods for recycling plastic and the costs of the cleanup."
Following the test flights, a team of 10 researchers, three sensor technicians and seven navigation personnel will participate on two long flights flying at a low airspeed of 140 knots and an altitude of 400 meters as it maps the garbage patch, according to Reisser.
"Four experienced observers will scour the ocean surface from the aircraft's open paratroop doors, while two computer operators log the data," Reisser wrote. "The pilots and navigator will also search for ocean plastic from their seats in the cockpit, where another computer operator will log their sightings."
Four days until the start of the Aerial Expedition. Here’s how we will be measuring plastic from the sky:… https://t.co/bZrS7gO5m0— The Ocean Cleanup (@The Ocean Cleanup)1474470716.0
"The carbon emissions generated by the aircraft will be offset through clean energy compensation," the team pointed out.
The visual survey is the final major research mission before the actual start of Slat's ambitious ocean cleanup effort. "This is really the last reconnaissance step before we start the real cleanup," he said at today's press conference.
At the young age of 17, the aerospace engineering student made headlines and inspired people around the world after coming up with a plastic-capturing concept that involves a massive static platform and long floating barriers that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents.
The Ocean Cleanup, headquartered in Delft, The Netherlands now employs approximately 50 engineers and researchers.
In June, the Ocean Cleanup
deployed a 100-meter clean-up boom, nicknamed Boomy McBoomface, in the North Sea in The Netherlands.
Inspecting the prototype in August.The Ocean Cleanup Facebook
The organization said that the next milestone for The Ocean Cleanup after the Aerial Expedition will be its Pacific Pilot, which is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2017.
The Ocean Cleanup's mission is to rid the world's oceans of plastic, a scourge that severely pollutes and damages ocean ecosystems and economies. About 8 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year.
Boyan Slat to Deploy 'Longest Floating Structure in World History' to Clean #OceanPlastic http://t.co/PZPLwJJA1E http://t.co/6fOvqaaEIH— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1433256834.0
At today's press conference, Slat warned that large pieces of plastic can "crumble down into those small microplastics ... and that has a tremendous environmental impact if it ends up in the food chain." He also noted that ghost nets can be harmful because they can cause entanglements of aquatic life as well as ship propellors.
Tragic: 2 critically endangered right #whales die due to discarded fishing gear. https://t.co/mJHBX6cg5Z— Heal the Bay (@Heal the Bay)1475197232.0
Full deployment of the Ocean Cleanup system is scheduled for 2020.
Boyan Slat's ambitious plan to rid the world's oceans of plastic has taken another step towards reality with its first prototype to be tested at sea. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, founded by the 21-year-old Slat, has deployed a 100-meter clean-up boom today in the North Sea in The Netherlands.