Trial on North Sea to clean up plastic soup
At the presentation of Boyan Slat’s invention, Minister Dijksma (Infrastructure and the Environment) reiterated her support for his project, which is aimed at cleaning up the plastic soup in the world’s oceans. Due in part to a grant from the national government amounting to 500,000 million euros, the first tests can be conducted on the North Sea this coming year. Boyan Slat (founder of The Ocean Cleanup) revealed the trial system in Scheveningen. It is an important step towards launching a clean-up system that will enable us to remove a huge volume of plastic from the world’s oceans.
In her speech, Minister Dijksma stressed the necessity of tackling this plastic soup: ‘The growing problem of floating rubbish dumps in the earth’s oceans must be addressed. Apart from being a threat to sea life, the plastics also disintegrate to form microplastics that are dangerous to humans. I would like to see this trial of Boyan be a success because it will then enable him to launch The Ocean Cleanup on a grand scale. The government would like to encourage these types of wonderful innovations in order to make us all more aware of how we treat our scarce natural resources and to encourage us to recycle more.’
The offshore company Boskalis will take the prototype system to the North Sea from Scheveningen harbour. Some 23 kilometres off the coast, the 100-metre long system will be tested over the coming year. Sensors will measure whether the movements of the floating barriers actually behave as calculated in advance and whether they can withstand weather conditions. Although a small amount of plastic refuse will be removed from the North Sea during the trial, this is not the primary goal of this prototype.
During the presentation, Boyan Slat spoke of an historic day on the way to cleaning up our oceans: ‘A positive result for our trial will mean that we are on schedule to launch our first operational test system at the end of 2017.’ He added that the success of the trial does not necessarily mean that the prototype system will remain intact. ‘I estimate that there is a 30% chance the system will be damaged, yet the trial will be a success nonetheless.’
The Ministry of Economic Affairs supports The Ocean Cleanup financially because this particular innovation fits within the top sector policy for water and can make a potential contribution to the circular economy. Minister Kamp (Economic Affairs): ‘The Ocean Cleanup of the young entrepreneur Boyan Slat is a typical example of a Dutch innovative solution to a worldwide challenge. This innovation is a first step towards ridding the world’s oceans of this plastic soup and reusing this refuse in new plastics applications. If this innovation is a success, we will reduce the burden on the environment. This project will simultaneously make a contribution to the circular economy.’
This trial is made possible by 1.5 million euros that has been raised by The Ocean Cleanup, which includes a gift of 500,000 euros from an anonymous benefactor. The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the Ministry of Economic Affairs together have contributed 500,000 euros to match the contribution of the Boskalis company. The next step is the first functional plastic clean-up system some 2 kilometres long, which will probably be placed off the Japanese coast in the second half of 2017. Starting in 2020, a system that is 100 kilometres long is planned for deployment between Hawaii and California. Over a span of 10 years, it should clean up half of the plastic floating in the northern waters of the Pacific Ocean.