Theoretically one autonomous and energy neutral system could remove about half of what is known to be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years. To mitigate the possible ecological risk of The Ocean Cleanup, matters like marine life and carbon footprint are being researched. Intelligence, experiences and expertise from different angles are integrated to ensure the cure will not be worse than the disease.
‘It is important to us to integrate third parties that independently help us navigate through hypotheses, risks and ambitions.’
“What is the relevance to extract plastic from the ocean?” asks Dubois. “Can we envision every single environmental impact, and quantify them? Independent experts need to answer this otherwise we are comparing apples and oranges.”
Audrey van Mastrigt – Advisor Marine Ecology, Royal HaskoningDHV: “Ecological impact prediction and monitoring are important to find a profitable balance based on scientific analysis. An installation like this has never floated in the oceans before. But our team can look at separate elements and ask ourselves the right questions. For instance, how can we deal with curious mammals? How does the material of the floating barriers react with its surroundings? What are energy effective solutions to transport the assembled plastic?”
The conditions of the North Sea give way to extreme technical testing, but the ecological system is rather different from many other areas in oceans elsewhere. “What we learn now helps us with determining, filtering and ultimately finding the best solutions for cleanups everywhere.”
Sometimes, complex challenges like cleaning up entire oceans demand more than just alternative solutions. A multi-level approach covering the material, environmental and technical aspects of projects like The Ocean Cleanup, can help build truly lasting solutions that benefit us all.