What is system 001
The fight was declared on plastic in the sea
On September 8th the test phase of the system 001 of the non-profit organization “The Ocean Cleanup” started. It was pulled about 380 kilometers into the Pacific Ocean, where it is now being checked for emergencies. The aim is one day to significantly decimate the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, a huge sea of plastic waste. With an area roughly three times the size of France, it is the world's largest of the five “plastic islands” in the oceans. Experts estimate that 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in it. All in all, these weigh 80,000 tons - which is as much as 500 jumbo jets.
The sea is not a landfill
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Eddy between California and Hawaii. Once the plastic parts floating in the sea get into the eddy, they usually stay there - this is how the garbage island grows constantly. In addition, the plastic is constantly shrinking due to solar radiation, waves, marine life and temperature changes. Sea dwellers often mistake the resulting microplastic pieces for food, which has a negative effect on their health and behavior. Larger objects such as fishing nets in which they can get caught are also dangerous for the animals. So plastic floating around is damaging to the environment. The Ocean Cleanup looked for a solution to the problem - and found it.
The final concept
The "System 001" consists of a 600 meter long, floating pipe and a movable partition that is attached to it and protrudes 3 meters into the water. This prevents the pieces of plastic from escaping on the surface and in the water. The system does not affect fish, however: Since the partition is impenetrable, a water flow is created under the partition, which the fish follow. The floating plastic parts, on the other hand, remain trapped thanks to the U-shape of the construction.
The idea of an anchored facility was discarded; the 001 system is agile and powered by natural forces such as wind and waves. It is therefore passive, but very effective: it is always where the waste is, because it swims with the same currents.
Every few months, the rubbish that has accumulated in the U-shaped system is pulled out of the water by ships. The team checks whether fish have got caught in the plastic despite everything. Finally, on land, the waste is recycled and reused.
If the construction fulfills its purpose, it will then be used in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Ocean Cleanup plans to install another 60 such systems in the garbage island. According to the organization, this could remove half of the plastic in five years.
She also wants to expand her project to the four other large garbage islands and thus reduce the plastic content in the oceans by 90% by 2040.
But this also requires the help of each individual: No more plastic may get into our waters - according to The Ocean Cleanup, this is still 1.15 to 2.41 tons per year. Because the whole action would not even be needed if the problem were tackled at the source.
Sources and further information:
The Ocean Cleanup
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