Giant device to clean up ocean collects plastic for first time

Matt Drake
Ocean Cleanup plans to build a fleet of these devices: AP

A huge device invented to clean up the ocean has successfully collected plastic for the first time.

The floating device was designed by Dutch scientists to clean up an island of rubbish in the Pacific Ocean that is three times the size of France.

Creator of the Ocean Cleanup project Boyan Slat tweeted that the device had captured and retained debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

He wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of the collected rubbish: "Our ocean cleanup system is now finally catching plastic, from one-tonne ghost nets to tiny microplastics!

"Also, anyone missing a wheel?

The huge floating device was designed by Dutch scientists to clean up an island of rubbish in the Pacific Ocean (AP)

The 2,000ft boon is designed not only to collect large visible pieces and discarded nets but also tiny pieces of plastic.

Underneath the plastic barrier floating on the surface is a 10ft screen to trap plastic without disturbing marine life below.

The device is also fitted with satellites and sensors so it can communicate its position to a vessel that collects the gathered rubbish every few months.

Ocean Cleanup plans to build a fleet of these devices and predicts it will be able to reduce the size of the patch by half every five years.

The project has had several setbacks which Mr Slat called "unscheduled learning opportunities" since it was launched in September 2018.

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By December, the group announced the system wasn't picking up any rubbish and then a 60ft section broke free in January and the whole thing had to be towed back to shore. The new system was launched in June.

Mr Slat said: "We now have a self-contained system in the great pacific garbage patch that is using the natural forces of the ocean to passively catch and concentrate plastics, thereby confirming the most important principle behind the ocean cleanup system."

Around 600,000 to 800,000 metric tonnes of fishing gear is lost or abandoned each year at sea.

Another 8million tonnes of plastic waste flows in from beaches.

Ocean currents have brought the largest accumulation of plastic in the world's oceans together between Hawaii and California.

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