Last week’s launch of Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project out of the San Francisco Bay was several years in the making. We’d heard and learned so much about the concept since Slat first pitched it to the world and started fundraising that it’s almost hard to remember that the thing had yet to become tangible until we finally saw it being dragged out to sea underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
We’ve seen diagrams, illustrations, and plenty of photos of the floating bloom system nicknamed “Wilson” up close and in construction, but never out in the open ocean. It’s 2,000-feet long and it’s a pretty incredible sight. Currently, the system is en route to an intermediary test stop offshore for a two-week trial, testing durability and survivability in the Pacific. Once that’s complete, they’ll head toward the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to officially begin cleaning up an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of floating plastic. And if System 001 is successful, the next step in the process will be to launch 59 more Wilsons to take on the task of cleaning up an estimated 50 percent of the garbage patch over the next five years.