Technological watch

The Ocean Cleanup reclaims a record 55 tons of plastic waste from the Pacific

The Ocean Cleanup project, an initiative that aims to eliminate plastic waste from the oceans, has successfully collected some 55 tons of plastic waste from the 1.6-million-square kilometer Great Pacific Garbage Patch and delivered this to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada. This garbage patch is the world’s largest accumulation of floating waste and has an estimated surface area equivalent to three times the size of France.

This story originally appeared in our sister publication Sustainable Plastics.

It’s a new record for the project’s System 002 solution, nicknamed Jenny, and a fitting end to its working life: the Ocean Cleanup is replacing System 002 with System 03, which is almost three times larger and more efficient.  It also features more sophisticated environmental monitoring and safety technology, such as a new Marine Animal Safety Hatch designed to protect marine life. The scale-up will bring the project another step closer to achieving its objective of removing 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040.

“This record delivery marks the end of the System 002 era for The Ocean Cleanup, and the perfect platform as we launch System 03. We are moving forward step-by-step, and we believe that System 03 represents the size of system required to scale up and expand our cleanup in the most economical way,” said Nisha Bakker, director partnerships of The Ocean Cleanup.

In the years during which System 002 was deployed, many lessons were learnt, according to the people working with the system. As catch management director Stella van den Berg pointed out, the catch efficiency improved greatly, allowing a lot more plastic to be collected than before. “We now have enough material to work with our partner Kia on repurposing The Ocean Cleanup ocean plastic in their electric vehicles – but it means we have needed to adapt our catch management to suit…System 002 has also helped us identify where we need to improve to deal with larger catch amounts in future,” she said.

“Beyond System 03, we plan to deploy a fleet of systems that together will be capable of removing 50 per cent of the GPGP every five years. However, we cannot do this alone. Committed and valued partners, and particularly our global partner Kia, remain essential for The Ocean Cleanup to bring our shared ambitions of plastic-free oceans to reality,” added Bakker.

As the global partner of The Ocean Cleanup, Kia is committed to a more than 20% increase in plastic reuse by 2030 and to achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. The record-breaking amount of plastic reclaimed by The Ocean Cleanup, marks the next phase in a seven-year global partnership agreed in April 2022 as part of Kia’s transformation into a leading sustainable mobility solutions provider. The partnership will be further reinforced and represented through the Kia logo and colours appearing on every set of overalls worn by the crew of System 03.

“Initiatives such as this one perfectly align with Kia’s transition to a sustainable mobility solutions provider and our Plan S strategy, through which we embrace the needs of our customers and the protection of our environment by acting as a responsible corporate citizen,” said Charles Ryu, senior vice president and head of the Global Brand & CX Division at Kia Corp.

Recycling of the captured plastic will begin shortly. Part of this will be used by Kia in various future models. Already, Kia has successfully implemented more than 30 sustainable solutions in various product areas, including fabrics and carpets using recycled PET, bio-based alternative leather, and paint without the aromatics BTX. For example, in the EV9, a 7-seat all-electric SUV, upcycled waste, including recycled ghost fishing nets, is used to produce the floor carpets. The car incorporates a total of approximately 34 kg of recycled plastic and bio-based, eco-friendly materials.

Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. The foundation is headquartered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and opened its first regional office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2023.

Publication date: 28/08/2023

Plastics News - automotive

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31