Before taking another bite out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, ocean-plastic fighting vessels are once again docked in Victoria before their next voyage.
The Ocean Cleanup project has been to Ogden Point various times in recent years as they’ve started to scale up their plastic waste collection systems.
The non-profit launched in 2013 with the goal of ridding the ocean of plastic and uses two commercial vessels to drag large U-shaped floating lines through waste hotspot areas.
The plastics then feed into a retention zone that’s about the size of a school bus. When that collector is full, cranes aboard the ships lift it out of the water and empty the plastics onto the deck before they’re returned to shore and made into new products.
The Ocean Projects’ first large-scale system – nicknamed Jenny – launched its successful test run in the summer of 2021 before returning to Victoria that fall with 29,000 kilograms of trash. Further trips to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch since have seen the initiative add a new 25-tonne retention area and thicker lines to funnel items sitting deeper in the water.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located between Hawaii and California in the North Pacific Gyre, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The “patch” moniker doesn’t mean it’s a floating, solid, plastic island in the ocean, according to NOAA, but is actually a collection of plastics of all sizes that get sucked together by gyres – powerful rotating currents – and are floating from the water’s surface to the ocean floor.
The Ocean Cleanup removed 153,000 kilograms of plastic during eight trips to the patch in 2022. Those trips have helped deepen their understanding of plastic behaviour in the ocean.
The initiative will make one more iteration of Jenny, which will make it twice the size before it transitions to System 03. That two and a half kilometers long system is expected to be capable of capturing larger quantities of plastic year-round at a lower cost per kg.
The Ocean Cleanup’s modelling for System 03 – expected to come online in the second quarter of 2023 – suggests it will help them scale up to eventually being able to clean the entire Great Pacific and other garbage patches.
The vessels are docked in Victoria as the project takes a break to avoid the harsh winter waves and conditions of the Pacific Ocean.
The next trip is scheduled to launch in 2023.
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