#FridayProject: The OCEAN CLEANUP

Vertical Farming Italia - #FridayProject

Finally, the #FridayProject backed by Vertical Farming Italia

Protagonist: The Ocean Cleanup

There was the Stone Age, then the Bronze Age. Now we are in the middle of the Plastic Age

That was the preface of an 18-year-old Boyan Slat at Delft’s TEDx Talk in 2012. The young Dutchman had just finished high school when he decided to show the world his idea to clean the oceans out of plastic.

It all stemmed from his passion for diving that took him the year before (2011) in the waters of Greece where he found more plastic bags than fish.

Boyan then began to inquire and was surprised to see that no one had moved yet to seriously combat the problem.

The only method considered so far had been that of ships with trawlers, a method that would have required infinite time, as well as an obvious economic unsustainability.

But, if we want to do something different, shouldn’t we have to think differently?

Thinking differently means going out of the traditional schemes, observing what is around us and understanding how it can be useful for our purposes. It means, for example, exploiting part of the problem in our favour.

The thousands of tons of plastic that are poured into the sea every year are, in fact, slowly collected and accumulated in real “islands” by the currents that govern the oceans.

Why not take advantage of this great advantage also for waste collection?

Vertical Farming Italia - #FridayProject
Credits: Ocean Blue Project

From this intuition comes the idea of ​​Boyan: a system of recovery of debris that exploits the wind, waves and currents to move, saving energy and labour, as well as greatly reducing the environmental impact of the operation.

Ok, maybe you’re wondering what all this has to do with Vertical Farming. As you well know, the philosophy that guides our movement is not only linked to a new way of producing food, but also, and above all, to the redefinition of a more sustainable world in all its aspects.

A world that looks to the future with the awareness of the present, looking for and finding solutions that can put a dam against the damage done, before it is really too late.

For this reason, initiatives like those of The Ocean Cleanup fascinate us and make us proud to be able to tell them, with the hope that they can serve as inspiration as they have been for us.

But let’s go back to Bojan and his incredible story.

Vertical Farming Italia - #FridayProject
Credits: TEDx Delft

The episode of TEDx Talk did not immediately resonate, but this did not stop the Dutch boy from continuing his research. So much so that after six months he left the Aerospace Engineering studies (recently started) and founded The Ocean Cleanup with just 300 € of initial capital.

Then, one day in March 2013, the turning point. Suddenly, the video of the TEDx episode became viral, and within a few weeks, $ 90.000 of crowdfunding arrived, allowing him to complete the team. The project officially took life.

The first step was to create a real feasibility study to start moving from idea to facts. A team of almost 100 experts including scientists and engineers (all volunteers) spent a year to prepare the 528 pages of the study, officially published in June 2014.

This allowed to launch a new crowdfunding with much more solid bases on the real feasibility of the initiative.

The success was, to say the least, incredible: over 38 thousand people, from 160 countries, contributed to Bojan’s dream with 2 million and 150 thousand dollars collected in just 100 days.

Mega Expedition

To assess the scope of the mission, then the amount of plastic to be recovered, obviously needed a precise estimate of how much was present in the oceans. In particular, in the so-called “Plastic Island” of the Pacific: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest among those existing (unfortunately there is one for each of the five currents).

Although known in the scientific field since 1988, thanks to a study published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the relative numbers have always been very uncertain, both to the real size and to the actual quantity of plastic present.

The results of this enormous mission, by sea and by air, were nothing short of alarming. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was measured in 1.6 million square kilometres (more than 5 times the surface of Italy) with inside the beauty of 80 thousand tons of plastic.

Impressive numbers that, of course, can only get worse. A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum states that in 2050 the oceans will contain more plastics than fish (at weight level).

The Technology

With these data in hand, the company of The Ocean Cleanup became increasingly complex. But even more stimulating. The goal remained the same as Bojan’s first speech: cleaning up the Pacific Ocean in 5 years.

The following years, therefore, were dedicated to the development and testing of the prototype. The variables involved were really many and the open sea, with all its strength, was certainly not an easy element to “tame”.

In this short video, the operation of the last conceived version is described in a simple and intuitive way, the one launched just a week ago.

System 001

Yes, because all this is no longer just the beautiful dream of a boy with the heart of the future of the planet, but a solid reality.

On September 8, with the San Francisco skyline behind and the Golden Gate overhead, the first system of The Ocean Cleanup officially took over the sea.

After 250-300 miles, it will arrive (in theory just today) in the “test zone”, before continuing for another 1200 miles and reaching the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The images, as always, are worth more than any word.

The Garbage Patch State Project

To conclude, a small side note. A note that speaks Italian.

Today is an important day, the day when a state whose size exceeds 16 million square kilometres is finally recognized. Finally, the veil of hypocrisy is raised, which concealed this reality that nobody wanted to see.

It is the hour when the whole world must know that there exists a Nation composed piece by piece by something that each of us has abandoned as unimportant. Each of us participated in the formation of this reality, made of bottles used only once and abandoned, lighters thrown on the street, rubber slippers forgotten on the beach, glasses and plastic plates thrown away.

But, where is it?

This is the away state, a nation composed of objects that belonged to some of us. We have built it in 60 years, in 60 years we have been able to form a cluster of 16 million square kilometres composed of five large islands, we have been able to change the geography of the Earth, and today, we can no longer hide ourselves we recognize this reality as a Federal State.

Today, 11 April 2013, I declare the Federal State of the GARBAGE PATCH 

This is the declaration of the artist – architect – designer Maria Cristina Finucci, in Paris. The first step of a monumental work to raise awareness on the theme of “Plastic Islands” by way of example Wasteland.


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Viaggiatore amatoriale, scrittore improvvisato, appassionato di basket e surf. Laureato alla triennale in Scienze Politiche e alla magistrale con lode in Giornalismo e Cultura Editoriale. Co-fondatore di Vertical Farming Italia dove si occupa di Comunicazione e Amministrazione 🌿
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