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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch's Days May Be Numbered

The potential solution includes drones, a pair of vessels and a massive net more than a mile long.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not hyperbole. It’s not just some small island composed of plastic bottles. It’s more than 220 million pounds of trash and it’s three times the size of France. It’s a pretty big mess but a non-profit organization is continuing to advance plans to clean it up.

The Ocean Cleanup, the benevolent minds behind the Trashfence, just released a new video detailing the latest iteration of their strategy for making the Garbage Patch go away. The organization has already successfully tested its System 2 operation but it began transitioning away from System 2 in July and plans to keep gradually increasing the size and capacity of its garbage collection operation. That, in turn, will make cleaning up the Garbage Patch a more cost-efficient process.

System 3 is three times the size of its predecessor, with a span of about a mile and a half between the two lead vessels pulling a massive net to catch the trash. That plastic waste funnels back toward a retention zone that can hold up to 55,000 pounds of garbage. Once it’s full, a third vessel pulls the retention zone out of the water and loads the trash into shipping containers that are dropped off back on shore.

To optimize trash collection, System 3 uses drones to patrol the areas around the vessels and pinpoint garbage hotspots within the Patch. The organization said it also uses computational modeling to help predict the location of trash hotspots, which are formed by the ocean’s circulating currents.

The Ocean Cleanup’s timeline has the full transition to System 3 completing around mid-2023. After that, the goal shifts toward scaling up and adding more operational fleets and going after additional garbage patches, which will take the organization out to 2030.

Once all of The Ocean Cleanup’s fleets are up and running, it predicts it can remove 90 percent of the floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean by 2040. And that’s with as few as 10 System 3 fleets, compared to the 50 System 2 fleets it would need to accomplish the same task.

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