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First sea trial of ocean cleanup system being deployed

The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic, has unveiled its North Sea prototype.

When installed, the prototype will become the first ocean cleanup system ever tested at sea.

The prototype will be installed in the North Sea, 23 km (12 NM) off the Dutch coast, where it will remain for one year. The objective is to test how The Ocean Cleanup’s floating barrier fares in extreme weather at sea – the kind of conditions the system will eventually face when deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The 100 meter-long barrier segment to be deployed in the North Sea this week will help validate the survivability of the system. Sensors will track every motion of the prototype and the loads it is subjected to. The data gathered will enable engineers to develop a system fully resistant to severe conditions during the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. At the North Sea test site, conditions during a minor storm are more severe than those in exceptionally heavy storms (occurring once every 100 years) in the Pacific Ocean.


The Ocean Cleanup’s cleaning technology makes use of long floating barriers which act as an artificial coastline, passively catching and concentrating ocean debris. The system is powered by the ocean’s natural currents. Testing the barriers is important because of their crucial role in the cleanup concept. Although some trash may be caught during the North Sea prototype test, collecting plastic is not its objective.

Boyan Slat, CEO and founder of The Ocean Cleanup, said “This is a historic day on the path toward clean oceans. A successful outcome of this test should put us on track to deploy the first operational pilot system in late 2017.” He also notes that a successful test does not necessarily mean the prototype will survive. “I estimate there is a 30% chance the system will break, but either way it will be a good test.”

Dutch Environment Minister Sharon Dijksma said: “The Ocean Cleanup is an inspiring example of how we can tackle the growing problem of ocean pollution. I hope that with the help of the Dutch government, Boyan’s prototype will turn out to be the successful solution for cleaning up the mid-ocean gyres. This is crucial to prevent permanent damage to the environment and marine life, due to the degradation and fragmentation of plastic waste materials.”


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