Oops, looks like ‘Ocean CleanUp’ doesn’t work

Ocean CleanUp, sea plastic removal system

You may recall reading about the Ocean CleanUp in the past but in case it’s new to you, Ocean CleanUp is a system for passively trapping the plastic waste that is in the so called Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It is a pretty ingenious system involving a floating U-shaped boom, hundreds of metres long which is designed to be abandoned in the ocean while it gets blown about by the wind and currents, casually trapping thousands of tonnes of plastic ready for later removal by a ship for recycling.

The plan, which has so far cost over $20 million, was to ramp up the program with the aim to soon have around sixty of these booms floating about in the ocean, leading to 50% of the plastic being removed every five years!

Prior to deployment there was nearly 300 tests, mostly computer modelled but also small-scale practical tests. Everything was going peachy and the first device, nicknamed ‘Wilson’, was taken out into the middle of the patch and let loose. You can check the ambitious project here.

Unfortunately, it seems that the winds and waves way out in the middle of the ocean have never heard of computer modelling and refused to play ball. It seems that although the device does at times capture plastic, it often just flows straight back out again. The unit has been towed to Hawaii for repairs and re-evaluation.

Now I think this system is pretty cool, and with a lot of further testing, time and money, they may well come up with a solution, I wish them well.

What bothers me somewhat though is the blatant falsities that are bandied about in their promotional material. Take this graph for instance, apparently with their system in place, they show that by 2025, they could have the plastic levels in the GPGP back to pre 2000 levels!

What utter bollocks! They could have thousands of these things out there and they will still be a literal drop in the ocean. By their own admission, the GPGP covers over 1.6 million square kilometres, that’s apparently three times the size of France. Each one of these booms has an open end of just 100 metres or so, that’s only 0.1 sq kms of area trawled for each kilometer drifted. In any case, there simply will never be enough of them to make any difference whatsoever.

But at least they have managed to take some plastic out of the water on their ill-fated trial.

Screenshot from the website

2000kgs of plastic! That’s not even one half filled, small rubbish truck and they admit that some of it was ghost nets. Here is the picture of one of those ghost nets being loaded onto the ship. I wonder how much this one net weighs?

Ocean CleanUp Facebook page

Bearing in mind that the average concentration of plastic in the GPGP is a miserly 20 odd kilograms per square kilometer, this one net being removed might’ve just cleaned up hundreds of square kilometres of ocean.

But good on them, they have figured out a way to make a living taking grants from other people and, at the end of the day, there seems to be plenty of spare cash around the world for these sorts of feel-good projects.

In fact I’d like to do my bit as well. With that in mind I would like to solve almost the entire, ‘oceans full of plastic’ problem. It has become apparent that there will not need to be anywhere near sixty of these units required. I reckon about ten should do it. All they have to do is place one each at the arrowed locations shown on the map below.

You’re welcome. Please forward any grant monies to me via internet banking to this account number.