Cleaning Up the Ocean

October 18, 2019
CATCH OF THE DAY Ocean Cleanup’s floating barrier gathers plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean.
THE OCEAN CLEANUP

The Ocean Cleanup has been trying out a system for removing plastic from the sea. After running into several problems, the group has got the system up and working.

“I am very proud to share with you that we are now catching plastics,” the group’s founder, Boyan Slat, says. He spoke to reporters in the Netherlands on October 2.

The Ocean Cleanup system is a floating barrier. It uses a giant screen that hangs below the water’s surface. The screen traps pieces of plastic as they float by. Marine animals can swim safely underneath.

The barrier didn’t work well when it was towed out to sea last year. It floated at the same speed as the plastic it was meant to catch. Since then, an underwater parachute has been added. This slows down the barrier so it can catch the faster-moving plastics. Other fixes were made to prevent plastic from flowing over the top of the barrier.

The device is being used in an area of the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Some 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic have collected there. The pollution harms animals. It also gets into the food chain. Slat hopes to get half of the trash cleaned up by 2025.

The next challenge is to make the barrier bigger and stronger, so it can gather plastic for a year, after which a ship will carry the trash away. “If the journey to this point taught us anything,” Slat says, “it is that it’s definitely not going to be easy.”

Stop and Think! What questions would you ask Boyan Slat if you were to write an article about the Ocean Cleanup system? How would you come up with interview questions?