Compîle project aims to clean up the ocean’s plastic soup

Belgian design and consultancy firm CREAX developed a modular concept called Compîle, an artificial beach that passively cleans up plastic from the ocean.

Every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic ends up in our oceans, and it’s estimated that in 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. Plastic is made to last and keeps floating around, often mistaken for food by marine life.

During a brainstorm session, designers at CREAX started thinking about a solution to clean up ocean plastic. Simply filtering the water is not an option, as small ocean creatures like larvae, eggs, single-cell organisms and even fish will be caught in the filters as well.

Both living creatures and plastic products have a mix of properties and characteristics that make them unique. CREAX compared the differences between plastic and plankton and realised that the most distinctive feature is their density. Plankton has a density that makes them more likely to sink or float at specific depths, while the density of plastic would make it float on the surface. However, because of currents and waves, plastic is pulled down to larger depths. Only in calm water, plastic floats.

Taking this into account, the solution, according to CREAX, lies in developing a calm water column in the middle of the ocean. Using breakwaters, designed to reduce the impact of waves just before the shoreline, the aim is to break waves and lowering their energy, resulting in a calm water column where passive plankton will sink and plastic will float to the surface.

To capture and collect the plastic, CREAX designed an artificial beach. The wind blows the plastic ashore, dries it, and transports it further into a funnel that leads to a large storage space. Every few months, a collecting ship will empty the storage space. Since ocean plastic is hard to recycle, CREAX suggest converting it into energy, as the material has a high caloric value.

CREAX says that their solution preserves sea life. The artificial pontoon is open at the bottom, so that fish and other marine life can swim underneath. To facilitate an escape route for active plankton, solar collectors catch sunlight on top of the structure and divert it underneath, indicating the exit. This way, no marine life is drifted ashore or trapped inside the artificial island.

Compîle is a passive and modular design, designed to be low-cost and environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, the project is only a concept and there are no concrete plans to build it as of yet. However, CREAX is open to parties interested to make it a reality.

Another project that aims to clean up the ocean is The Ocean Cleanup Project. Read more about it here. For more projects with ocean plastic, click here.

Renderings: CREAX