The world is not short of good ideas. And most of them never come to fruition.
So when the world started paying attention to (then) teenager Boylan Slat's plan to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I think it was not unreasonable for folks to express some skepticism.
But the idea has kept on growing. And The Ocean Cleanup has just announced the launch date for its first full-size array—and that launch date is really, really soon.On September 8th, 2018, the 600 meter long Array 001 will make its way out from Alameda, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and out into the Pacific ocean. From there, it will undergo a couple of months of tow tests and trials in the Pacific, before being towed out to its final destination in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
There, it will begin the job of collecting trash for removal and recycling—using its passive, energy neutral mode of operation to concentrate floating debris at the center of the array where vessels will periodically come by to collect the trash and bring it back to land. Along the way, because The Ocean Cleanup has opted for a modular, gradual launch, the first array will be able to provide important performance data to the team which can then use that data to tweak and improve designs before further arrays are launched.
Ultimately, the goal is to have a full fleet of 60 or so arrays which the organization claims could clean up 50% of the garbage patch in just 5 years. Of course, as is often noted when we talk about cleanup efforts, this all means little if we don't stop throwing garbage in the ocean in the first place. But from Marriott removing straws to India banning single-use plastics, there's actually been a considerable amount of progress on this front since Slat first floated (sorry!) his idea several years ago.
Whether it's United By Blue's corporate-sponsored waterway cleanups, Mumbai's massive beach cleans or stubborn individuals undertaking #2MinuteBeachCleans, there are plenty of folks tackling this problem from the shore. Now Slat and his team are opening up a new front in the battle, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that I wish them every success in the world.