Photo Credit The Ocean Cleanup
Dutch Whiz Kid Develops Ocean Cleanup Tool
There’s a reason for fear: It’s a pretty much accepted fact that more than 5 TRILLION pieces of plastic waste litter our oceans – and that number is growing at a frightening pace.
And there’s now a reason to cheer: A has developed an amazing cleanup mechanism that is showing tremendous promise as the answer to our oceanic issues.
“The ocean is big. Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using conventional methods – vessels and nets – would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete,” Boyan Slat notes on his website, The Ocean Cleanup. “Our passive systems are estimated to remove half the Great Pacific Garbage patch in just five years, and at a fraction of the cost.”
There is precious little time to waste.
Slat, who founded The Ocean Cleanup at the age of 18 in his hometown of Delft, the Netherlands, says, “Trash accumulates in 5 ocean garbage patches, the largest one being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. If left to circulate, the plastic will impact our ecosystems, health and economies. Solving it requires a combination of closing the source, and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean.
“Although we are not harvesting plastic yet, based on the current results, we are positive we are close to making it work. Here is what we have observed so far and how we plan to tune the system to work and not just collect, but also retain the plastic caught.”
Bravo! It’s about time someone came up with a workable plan to reverse the staggering amount of plastic pollution.
Slat was a high-school student when his life’s mission became clear during a diving trip to Greece in 2011.
"There were more plastic bags than fish," he told MNN.com. "That was the moment I realized it was a huge issue and that environmental issues are really the biggest problems my generation will face."
Slat soon discovered that:
- Plastic pollution in the world's oceans is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time, impacting more than 600 marine species.
- According to the United Nations, plastic pollution is conservatively estimated to have a yearly financial damage of 13 billion USD. The costs stem from the plastic’s impact on marine life, tourism, fisheries and businesses.
- Plastic pollution does not only impact sea life, it also carries toxic pollutants into the food chain – a food chain including us humans.
Prior to Slat’s clever boom-like creation, most ocean cleanup devices relied on nets to filter the plastic out of the water. The nets, however, tend to also snag and kill fish, turtles and other sea life.
Following a two-year feasibility study, Slat finally launched his trash-collecting booms from San Francisco on Sept. 8. The test run is showing promise and full-scale deployment is expected by 2020.
“… the testing so far has buoyed hopes that its ambitious goals are achievable,” notes MNN.com. “According to Slat's estimates, his booms will collect about half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years, and should collect about 90 percent by 2040.”
The massive device, which is solar-powered, modular and flexible to move with the tides, works via massive floating booms that sit on top of the water and act like a mini-coastline. Just like beaches collect our plastic waste, the boom can passively gather plastic waste and pull it to its center. Once a month or so, a boat would go collect the garbage. The plastic waste that's recovered can be recycled into all sorts of stuff – from car bumpers to plastic logs to sunglasses and more – to help pay for the operation.
Keeping our coast clear