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Olivia Alderfer

Olivia Alderfer '25 tells readers about a nonprofit called The Ocean Cleanup that plans to intercept rivers and clean litter out of the ocean.

Ocean preservation and technology has been crucial to humanity for decades. However, Boyan Slat, the CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, has taken it a step further with his project. When Slat took a vacation to Greece and went scuba diving, he noticed more plastic than fish in the water. He decided that he wanted to find a way to remove it, so in 2017, he founded The Ocean Cleanup. The project was transformed into a nonprofit organization. They have employed professionals, but have also achieved success from volunteers. The two aims of the project are to intercept rivers and clean up the ocean. For each intention, there is a specific team and system.

The Interceptor is the system used for river clean-up and capturing plastic before it enters the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup team has identified that 1000 rivers across the world are the most significant contributors to ocean pollution, which will be cleaned using The Interceptor’s technology. It extracts plastic autonomously and is 100% solar-powered. The Interceptor is a robot shaped similarly to a boat. It uses technology and a conveyor belt to guide the trash into the boat where it gets separated into one of six dumpsters. The Interceptor can alert any worker around the globe when it is filled and a smaller boat will take the dumpsters to be emptied. Once cleared, the smaller boat will bring the dumpsters back and reload them into the Interceptor so that it may begin collecting again. Although this technology is still evolving, the current system has proven to be effective and with the help of private corporations, government leaders, and individuals, they are aiming to clean up all 1000 of the rivers in five years. 

The Ocean Cleanup Project has developed entirely different technology to tackle the plastic in the ocean. System 002, Jenny, is about 2,625 feet long and 10 feet deep. Its U-shaped structure is towed at less than two miles an hour by a vessel on each side. It is curved to catch the trash but is fully open at the bottom to allow trapped sea life to safely escape. Flotation on the top allows it to keep its shape. As it moves through the water, the plastic gets carried along the two barriers and is transported to a central area called the retention zone. When it needs to be emptied, the barriers are brought together and taken by one of the boats. This ensures that no plastic leaves the retention zone when it is pulled up onto one of the vessels and poured out onto the deck. There, it gets separated and packaged up before it is taken back to shore to be recycled. 

Slat and his team aim to remove 90% of the oceans’ plastic by 2040, starting with The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and advancing to the other four patches. The other major patches are located on either side of South America, and in the Indian and North American oceans. Using the social media platforms, they are hoping to raise 30 million dollars which will allow them to remove one pound of trash per dollar. The team has also gained support from large creators such as Mr. Beast. He has gained a significant following on YouTube and is most popular for his videos surrounding gaming, comedy, and challenges. So far, the project has achieved great success and they are optimistic about their goals in the future.