It is common knowledge that approximately 71% of the earth’s surface is made up of ocean water. Unfortunately, these vastly large bodies of water are also collecting devastating amounts of manmade pollution in the form of debris and plastics.
Over time, circular oceanic currents pull the litter into large floating mounds due to the fact that most of the pollution comes from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, which does not wear down. Sometimes a trash island is created, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that spans hundreds of miles.
Resulting consequences of this ocean pollution include 14 billion pounds of additional marine trash a year, as well as 100,000 mammal deaths and 1 million sea bird deaths per year. If we keep on this path, the future of this planet could be headed for despair.
Even though cleaning up such drastic amounts of debris and plastics is no easy task, there just might be a new breakthrough that could lead us in the right direction.
The New Solution
A new contraption has been devised that can be thought of as an effective rehab for our oceans. Not only would this plan work to clean up the floating trash, it would also take the plastic materials and recycle them into something useful.
19 year old Boyan Slat from the Netherlands has designed a floating structure that would essentially sweep the marine debris into a metaphorical dust pan. The engineering student and his team are on a mission to raise the $2 million needed to build the contraption, even going as far as developing an in-depth feasibility study to lay everything out in the open.
Simply put, the device would consist of numerous floating “V” arms that would collect and push debris to collection points. Trash could be collected up to 3 meters below the surface, which wouldn’t harm marine animals in the process since they could still pass underneath the contraption.
Estimated analysis by Slat and his team shows that approximately 65 cubic meters of debris would be funneled deeper into the device each day, which could then be collected and extracted every 45 days. Ultimately, the plastics could then be recycled and converted into new products, instead of floating in harmful trash patches in the water.
Will it Work?
Though only time will tell, the ocean cleanup contraption looks extremely promising and could very well be one of the greatest innovations to tackle such a major issue. Not only would the amount of floating trash piles in the oceans be reduced drastically, but also marine animal deaths would be reduced.
Additionally, the extracted plastics being recycled into different products would not only help to offset the costs of the machine, but also promote sustainable practices. In addition to cleaning up the already present trash with Slat’s contraption, governments will also need to be much stricter when it comes to the use and recycling of plastics going forward in order to keep oceanic debris piles at bay.
Even though tiny particles less than 0.1 mm would not be caught with this tool, the larger pieces can be collected before they break down into the smaller, harder to extract particles. Regardless of the downfall regarding these tiny particles, money has already been coming in from crowd funding meaning the ocean cleanup team and their contraption could very well turn their project into a reality in the near future.