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Cleaning the ocean

Issue #06

Each year, many animals die in the oceans from the plastic that floats around. The stomachs of the animals fill up with plastic or get caught in floating trash. The non-profit organization Ocean Cleanup is now trying to address this problem by aiming to fish the plastic out of the sea. 

The goal of The Ocean Cleanup is to eliminate 90% of the plastic pollution in the ocean with the help of its advanced technology. To achieve this goal, the company focuses on closing the source and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean and does not disappear by itself.  

The Dutch founder Boyan Slat got this idea when he was on vacation in Greece in 2011. The plan was to do a nice dive, but he could hardly see any fish because there was plastic everywhere. He knew he had to do something about it, against the pollution of the sea. Over the years, prototypes were made, and by 2019 they were in the testing phase.  

Tubes of vulcanized rubber float on the surface of the water, using the ocean streams to fish out the plastic garbage, which is often only millimeters in size. The construction is anchored to the seafloor by ropes. The plan is that ships will collect the accumulated garbage at regular intervals. 

This system is designed to capture even plastic from small pieces only millimeters in size to large debris, including huge fishing nets that can be several dozen meters wide. 

A study shows if in the coming years a large implementation of the system would follow, in 5 years 50% of the garbage in the oceans could be reduced. Ocean Cleanup projects that 90% of plastic will be gone from the ocean by 2040. 

After much research and trial and error, the company is now focusing primarily on rivers to stop most plastic at the source before it can enter the oceans. The non-profit organization’s aim is to tackle the 1000 most polluted rivers in the world. One of the cleanups is being undertaken at the Klang River, which is one of the dirtiest rivers in the world. Further cleaning systems are planned to be installed all over Malaysia. 

Together with their new partner Konecranes, the interceptors are being manufactured. They are expected to be ready and operational in May 2021. In the future, Konecranes will handle the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of the Interceptors; local partners will oversee operations, and The Ocean Cleanup will continue to act as a provider of technology and best practices, and lead business development for upcoming Interceptor projects. 

With this project, Ocean Cleanup has set big goals for the future. Whether these are all achievable will be seen in the next few years. 

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