How are we truly cleaning up the swathes of plastic in our oceans? HEKKTA investigates.

We like to keep our finger on what designers are doing to help the climate crisis, and one of the key ecological points of the climate battle is plastic in our oceans.

With the oceans descending to depths of up to 7 miles, the scale of the challenge is evident.

A very scary statistics has been released by the circular-economy charity, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in which they estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

With the modern technology and innovation we now possess, it is up to us to undo some of the damage, in order to prevent the above statement from becoming fact.

So what technologies do we have at our disposal?


THE INTERCEPTOR

This particular piece of kit, created by The Ocean Cleanup, essentially acts as a big barrier that stretches across a body of water. Using solar energy to power itself, it is completely autonomous, but real action in the oceans has proved difficult.

Strong waves and winds has seen various of the Interceptors suffer damage, thus the organisation turned their attention to rivers, to try and catch the plastic at the source.

“Combining our ocean cleanup technology with the Interceptor, the solutions now exist to address both sides of the equation,” said Slat, the organisation’s founder.

Plastic is collected into a processing plant at the end of the barrier, and when the bins are full, a boat comes to collect the plastic and recycle it.

They have put a specific focus on the Great Pacific garbage patch, a huge swirling collection of plastic in the middle of the ocean, with a “full fleet of cleanup systems” operating there, with the target of cleaning up 50% of the patch every five years.

Interceptors are also operating in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, with more planned for the Dominican Republic and the USA.

The Interceptor - Plastic

The Interceptor – Plastic


THE BUBBLE BARRIER

Operating exclusively in Amsterdam, it helps to reduce the issues the city has been having with plastic, due to it’s extensive canal network. Fishing out 42,000 kg of plastic each year, the Bubble Barrier works by a perforated tube being laid across the bottom of the canal, as compressed air is pushed through it.

Various bits of plastic are caught by the bubbles and pushed to the surface, where a catchment pool collects them.

Working around the clock all year, the Bubble Barrier has so far proved successful.


FLOATING BOOM

Backed by the EU, the Floating Boom has been installed at the mouth of the Kifissos River in Greece, near Athens.

New Naval, who helped develop the system, originally developed the technology is response to oil spills, but found the blueprint was similar when applying it to plastic. Mesh barriers collect the plastic and channel it towards the cage, using a system called Tactical Recovery System Hellas, or TRASH.

The Floating Boom is one out of five new Cleaning Litter by Developing and Applying Innovative Methods in European Seas (CLAIM) formed by the the European Union.


MR TRASH WHEEL

The fourth one is the slightly more eccentric of the bunch, working away on the waters of Baltimore. Running since 2014, it has even been joined by a female version, and later a gender-neutral version; Captain Trash Wheel.

Positioned on the Jones Fall River, the anthropomorphic machines have collected a vast 907 tonnes of rubbish in total!

Clearwater Mills and the Waterfront Partnership teamed together to create them, and they are powered simply by the force of the river’s current, so again, sustainably run. Aswell as clearing the plastic from the river, they aim to make the harbour of Baltimore swimmable by 2020.

Mr Trash Wheel - Plastic Clearup

Mr Trash Wheel – Plastic Clearup