Ocean Cleanup is a prototype marine barrier designed to corral and collect pollution from the surface of the largest bodies of water on Earth. When completed, this 6.6-foot-tall floating fence could stretch 62 miles in length.
The unique barrier moves through the ocean, powered by natural currents. The device uses a minimum amount of moving parts, providing near-autonomous operations over the long term. Ocean Cleanup, powered by waves, will act as an artificial coastline, collecting waste material as it travels over the marine environment. The same design could also be applied to smaller versions, created to clean smaller patches of water.
Set to be deployed in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands, this is the first time such a mechanism has been tested in the rough conditions of the sea. The waters there are often rough, providing perfect testing grounds for the device, due to carry out its main mission at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
"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. I estimate there is a 30% chance the system will break, but either way it will be a good test," said Boyan Slat, CEO and founder of Ocean Cleanup.
Designers believe their device is likely to collect some garbage during the North Sea test, but the main purpose of testing is to determine if the mechanism can withstand the rigors of extreme storms. The prototype barrier due to be deployed off the coast of the Netherlands will stretch 328 feet in length. Sensors set along the floating fence will record the total forces to which the barrier is subjected. This data will be analyzed and utilized in designing the next generation of the device, including the one destined to take on the massive waste floating on Earth's largest ocean.
The Dutch government is the primary public financial sponsor of the $1.66 million project, sponsoring the test with $553,000 in funding. Marine contractor Boskalis paid one-third of the design costs, allowing the prototype to be set out to sea.
"By 2020, The Ocean Cleanup aims to deploy a 100 km-long structure between Hawaii and California. Analysis suggests this array will be able to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in ten years' time," Ocean Cleanup reported on their Website.
The prototype device was unveiled to the press on June 22 at Scheveningen harbor — The Hague.