Josh gets to work clearing Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Image: The Ocean Cleanup

An ocean clean-up system, capable of clearing an area the size of a football field every five seconds, has got to work in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It has been launched by Dutch non-profit The Ocean Cleanup, which is working to rid the world's oceans of at least 90% of the plastic trash by 2040.

The new System 03 – nicknamed Josh – consists of a floating barrier approximately 2.2 km long, which is towed between two slow-moving vessels. This barrier suspends a screen extending four meters below the surface of the water, where most floating plastic is encountered.

"Let this mark the beginning of the end of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup
A drone captures deployment of System 03. Image: The Ocean Cleanup

System 03 is the Ocean Cleanup’s third iteration of cleaning technology and was deployed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) in August 2023, following the success of System 002, which extracted over 250,000kg of plastic between 2021 and 2023.

GPGP is a massive collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, spanning waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The rubbish comes from a variety of sources including discarded fishing gear and consumer waste emitted from rivers.

Collected items are sorted by the Ocean Cleanup crew and recycled into sustainable products, such as sunglasses. A recent partnership with the brand Kia is incorporating GPGP plastic into new electric vehicles, with the first batch delivered to the car manufacturer on System 002’s final return to port earlier this summer.

Rubbish collected by System 002 is sorted by crew. Image: The Ocean Cleanup

“The GPGP is enormous - around three times the size of France, or twice Texas - and cleaning the entire area requires a fleet of cleanup systems similar in scale to System 03,” The Ocean Cleanup explains.

“This is our first opportunity to deploy, test and optimise such a system, and we believe System 03 will develop into our blueprint for scale-up to a fleet capable of cleaning the entire GPGP.”

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18, moved after seeing more plastic bags than fish while scuba diving in Greece. He is the youngest-ever recipient of UN’s highest environment award Champion of the Earth.

Ocean Cleanup founder Boyan Slat. Image: The Ocean Cleanup

Speaking on a promotional video, he said, “We’ve shown that we are capable to repeatedly harvest large amounts of plastic. Let this mark the beginning of the end of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Imagine if we do get this done, we could truly make our oceans clean again. That’s a future to look forward to.”