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Ocean Cleanup returns to B.C. with its first dent out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Victoria in the running as company looks for a base of operations to meet its 2040 goal
Oceans director Hen van Dalen talks about the proof of their technology upon the return of Ocean Cleanup’s vessels to Ogden Point Wednesday, Oct. 20. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Ocean Cleanup celebrated confirmation of their technology and a groundbreaking collection of 29,000 kilograms of trash from their Moby Dick, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with the return of their vessels to Victoria this week.

The garbage collected on this voyage was microscopic said Ocean Cleanup CEO and founder Boyan Slat, compared to the total amount in the area which contains 80,000 tonnes of garbage across an area twice the size of Texas.

“But these 29,000 kilos are the most important we’re ever going to collect because they prove that we can collect the other 800 million kilos that are still out there,” he told the crowd of media and onlookers gathered at Victoria’s Ogden Point the afternoon of Oct. 20. “If we make the system bigger, and have 10 of them out there, we can clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

Ocean Cleanup – founded in the Netherlands by Slat at age 18 – has made its mission in completely eradicating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, removing 90 per cent before 2040. Since July, they’ve embarked on several voyages from Victoria testing their System 2 collection line (nicknamed “Jenny” after Forest Gump’s miraculous shrimp boat). The 800-meter U shape line funnels garbage into a collection base the size of a school bus.

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The last voyage’s 29,000 kilos were collected after their 45-manned vessels trawled the pacific garbage patch for five days straight, said Ocean’s director Henk van Dalen. The voyage proved scalability for greater garbage collection and safety standards for marine life.

“We have proof of technology … we hope by a few years we can start ramping up to a fleet of systems,” Dalen said. For that, the Dutch company will require a space for an operational base. Victoria is in the running along with other major cities on the Pacific coast, Dalen said. Their nearest challenge, however, will be operating the systems throughout the winter months’ inclement weather.

Wednesday’s return to Ogden Point represents the closest Ocean Cleanup has come to operational capacity since it was founded in 2013, Slat said.

“To me, this signifies an age when we’re starting to correct the problems that we ourselves created … if we can clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as a symbol of everything that’s wrong today, I think that’s going to be such an inspiring thing.”

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Oceans Cleanup director Hen van Dalen and CEO/founder Boyan Slat upon return of Ocean Cleanup’s vessels to Ogden Point, Wednesday, Oct. 20. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)