The Ocean Cleanup Is About to Launch. Here's What It Faces.

Ocean Cleanup Project
Plan to Clean Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This isn't going to be easy. But nothing important ever is...

By the looks of things, the first Ocean Cleanup array still looks set to launch on September 8th. But given that nothing like this has ever been tried before, what are the actual chances of success?

In the latest short video from The Ocean Cleanup team, Boyan Slat—who I guess we can no longer refer to as a teen wonder—explains a little bit of what the array is up against.

Interestingly, Slat appears positively sanguine about how the array will maneuver in the rough ocean waters. And given that the schedule allows for several weeks of testing before it heads out into the middle of the Pacific—on top of the open water tests that have already occurred—it seems reasonable to assume that the team has figured out much of what's to come on that front.

Where the bigger questions remain, says Slat, is just how effectively and practically they can collect and process plastics. Their in-house testing has suggested they can collect items down to a millimeter in size, but that's easier said than done when you are thousands of miles out in the ocean, and when you then have to clean and process them for recycling and/or disposal back on land. The second area of major uncertainty is how well the array will last out in the rough, cold and corrosive waters of the Pacific.

But that's at least part of the reason why the team has chosen to roll the project out on a modular basis, sending out a single array, learning from how it performs, and then using those lessons to improve and launch many more arrays to follow. For those wanting to follow the launch of what could be a major step forward in the fight against ocean plastics, check out the schedule and/or follow along on twitter via #theoceancleanup.

As someone who once upon a time was more than a little cynical about whether this thing would ever come to fruition, I am delighted to see Mr Slat continuing to push things forward. And assuming that it manages to overcome the challenges that remain, I will be delighted to be proven so very wrong.

Of course, it still makes sense to keep plastics out of the ocean wherever possible. But we have to start looking at cleaning up the mess that's already there too.