Ocean Cleanup removes plastic from North Sea with newly funded prototype

Boyan Slat's The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch organisation developing technologies to rid the oceans of plastic, announced on Wednesday it has secured funding for its North Sea prototype test. 1.5 million euro was reserved for the project, a third of which is contributed by dredging and marine contractor Royal Boskalis.

The Government of The Netherlands, through the ministries of Infrastructure & the Environment and Economic Affairs, has committed to another 0.5 million. The remainder was pledged by an anonymous philanthropist.

"Boyan proves that innovations for tackling environmental problems and entrepreneurship go well together. The Dutch government therefore shows its full commitment", Sharon Dijksma, Minister for the Environment, said in a statement.

40 engineers

Founded in 2013 by then 18-year-old Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup currently employs over 40 engineers and researchers, and is headquartered in Delft, The Netherlands.

Instead of going after the plastic with vessels and nets – which would take many thousands of years and billions of dollars to complete – The Ocean Cleanup develops a network of extremely long floating barriers which, while being fixed in the ocean currents, enable the ocean to concentrate the plastic itself.

The North Sea prototype is, according to the company, an important step towards the world’s first deployment of an ocean cleanup system, and will be the first test of the design at sea.

100 metres

The prototype spans 100 metres and must be deployed about 23 km off the coast of the Scheveningen harbor for one year. "The objective is to monitor and analyze behavior of a floating barrier segment in all weather conditions, including gale force winds and waves", the company declares.

"Making sure the floating barriers are able to withstand the harshest of conditions is fundamental to the success of our mission", Slat said in a statement.

By 2020, The Ocean Cleanup aims to deploy a 100 km-long structure between Hawaii and California. Analysis suggests this array will be able to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in ten years’ time.

Image credit: The Ocean Cleanup