Seafaring Trash Collection Prototype Launched

Jenny prototype collecting trash. Source: Smithsonian

In an attempt to help reduce the size of what has become proverbially known in environmental circles as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, non-profit organization, The Ocean Cleanup is experimenting with a new innovation to collect trash.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive collection of floating trash twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. Composed primarily of tiny pieces of plastic suspended in seawater included but not limited to bottles and pieces of trash smaller than a grain of rice suspended in the upper water column. The patch covers an estimated 1.6 million square kilometers—roughly three times the size of France—and currently floats between Hawaii and California.

In a test of the new trash collection apparatus it sucked approximately 20,000 pounds of plastic from the ocean.

(Each of the Earth’s five gyres — one in the Indian, two in the Atlantic, and two in the Pacific— have been accumulating garbage for decades. The one in the Pacific Ocean is just the best known because of its size.)Currently, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is increasing in size as gyres –rotating currents – pull more trash towards the area.

Ocean Cleanup’s mission is to remove 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040. Since 2018, the organization has been testing multiple prototypes for ocean trash cleanup, but not until last month’s test has the organization been successful with their newest U-shaped net system, nicknamed “Jenny.”

Critics of the new protype have noted the large carbon footprint it leaves behind. The Ocean Collective said it plans to purchase carbon offsets to address this legitimate concern. 

Guided by boats on both sizes, a half-mile-long net installation works to capture trash heaps. Once “Jenny” is full of trash, she is emptied on shore and reset to be taken out to collect more trash.

The Center for American Progress’s Ocean Policy Director Dr. Miriam Goldstein described the system as “a net dragged between two boats. We have a name for a net dragged between two boats, and that’s trawl fishing.”

As more “Jenny” prototypes are constructed, Ocean Cleanup hopes to be able to meet their goals ambitious ocean trash removal goals by 2050.

Source: Smithsonian