The Ocean Cleanup Project has now officially launched system 001, named Wilson, from the San Francisco Bay and begun its journey towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Wilson will act as a front runner for the project and if successful will serve as the prototype for a fleet of systems that aims at cleaning 50% of the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The journey’s first stop is at the Pacific trials where Wilson will deploy its u-shaped configuration and be tested for around 2 weeks. Subsequently, it will be towed the remaining 1000 nautical miles towards its final destination where it will start its mission of cleaning our oceans. This launch marks the 5 year milestone of testing and tinkering with the underlying tech in at least semi-controlled environments. However, only time and real-life testing will tell whether it will be able to withstand the often violent environment of the Pacific.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre that due to currents and wind slowly collects and traps trash in its center. While the size is subject to heavy discussion it is estimated to be between the size of Texas and Russia. The origin of the trash is highly disputed, with some researches believing it to primarily come from a few select rivers in Asia
The floating system is designed by the non-profit organisation Ocean Cleanup, which was founded by then 18 year old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat in 2013, as a way to help solve the global plastic pollution crisis. The $20 million project has significant financial backing with some of the biggest names in business, such as Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder), the world’s largest shipping company Maersk, Deloitte etc.