Have you ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Directly west of California and Oregon in the Pacific Ocean, in a vast expanse of ocean that exceeds the size of the state of Texas, a “vortex” of garbage exists.
While the patch is not so solid that it is one land mass, it is a large region that contains several large chunks of garbage.
Now, scientists from the Ocean Cleanup Company report that they are about to do something about this atrocious situation, composed of about 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in an area that stretches 617,763 square miles.
A 23 year old engineer/inventor named Boyan Slat created a device that will be utilized in this cleanup. When the man was in college, he dropped out of an aerospace engineering program to walk his own independent path, to focus on developing some actual devices with the potential to cleanse the oceans of the world.
Ironically, the Ocean Cleanup company is going to use plastic itself to suck up much of the plastic waste.
This device is composed of 40 ft plastic pipes that are about to be placed and fitted together to create a long tube that will end up looking look a snake.
These tubes will then be filled up with air. They will compose an arc floating on the surface of the ocean, with nylon screens hanging down below in the formation of a massive floating dustpan, to capture all the trash and plastic waste that gravitates together when put in motion by the ocean’s currents.
The only flaw of the device could be the fact that it can’t trap microplastics in the nets deployed by the device, which are leeching into the water and evenly distributing carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals into the ocean.
Slat spoke on his technology:
“Most of the plastic is still large, which means that in the next few decades if we don’t get it out, the amount of microplastics can be tenfold or 100-fold. It’s this problem that’s waiting out there to magnify many times unless we can take it out.”
In just a few weeks, the device will begin testing off the coast of San Francisco, California, when Ocean Cleanup Company ensures that it is capable of being towed 200 miles out into the Pacific to where the garbage patch is. They also need to ensure that it can be properly assembled at the location.
By summer, the device should be in operation. Slat reports he is confident that the device will be capable of making a huge dent in the plastic pollution, managing to clean up half of the Great Garbage Patch in 5 years.
That is 40,000 metric tons of trash they are cleaning up. His organization worked with other scientists to determine that the garbage patch is actually 16 times larger than originally believed, weighing a total of 80,000 tons. They say it is three times the size of France.
They have an ambitious goal for the first month, planning to collect somewhere around 11,000 pounds of plastic. They want to transport the first load of plastic back on the shore by the end of the year, and it may even be sold to companies for recycling.
How is this being funded? It was all a crowdfunding campaign, which managed to raise over $2 million from about 38,000 people from around the planet in 2014. Larger donors contributed over $21 million in 2017.