Oceans

Ocean Cleanup, the mission against plastic sets off again

After returning to shore last January due to a fault, the floating barrier has set sail towards the Pacific Trash Vortex once again with the aim of removing the largest plastic island floating in the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup mission is giving it another go, not letting the first obstacle bring it to a permanent halt: the machine, whose full name is Ocean Array Cleanup, is a barrier designed to carry out the greatest ocean cleanup operation everBoyan Slat, the mastermind behind the project, announced via Twitter that it’s currently at sea headed towards the Pacific Trash Vortex, the largest plastic island on the planet.

Give it another go, Wilson

In late 2018, the 600-metre long machine called Wilson was damaged by continuous exposure to waves and wind, causing a 20-metre long section to detach from it and forcing the entire device to return to port. After approximately four months of repair operations, Wilson is now headed back towards the Pacific Trash Vortex between the US states of California and Hawaii. “Hopefully, nature doesn’t have too many surprises in store for us this time – Slat tweeted –. Either way, we’re set to learn a lot from this campaign.”

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Wilson 2.0

In order to avoid the same problem, Ocean Cleanup engineers haven’t only fixed the floating barrier but also tried to improve it it. Two upgrades have been installed on the new version of the machine. It now has a set of inflatable buoys that should reduce its drift and help it move slower than floating plastic. The team has also attempted to make the device more durable by creating simpler connections between the various components and removing unnecessary stabiliser frames. Finally, it was constructed following a modular approach, in order to make repairs and modifications easier without having to bring the whole barrier to shore.

Wilson in action in the pacific ocean
According to its creators, the Ocean Array Cleanup doesn’t put marine animals at risk, as they’re able to swim underneath the floating barriers © Ocean Cleanup

A sustainable barrier

Wilson is fuelled by oceanic currents and solar power, therefore the machine doesn’t require additional energy to carry out its mission of collecting plastic. During its first field test, marine biologists monitoring the project onboard also confirmed that it hadn’t caused any significant negative environmental impacts.

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