According to statistical data, every year around a whopping 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean. And if humankind proceeds to conventionally clean (via vessels and nets) these expansive areas in which the plastic dumps are concentrated, it would take around 79,000 years to complete the task. Additionally, the tiresome endeavor would cost over billions of dollars, while also having the propensity to cause harm to marine life and generate carbon emission. So, what is the other practical alternative to this seemingly hopeless situation. Well, according to 20-year old Boyan Slat, the solution is to let the ocean ‘clean itself’.
Of course, these massive water bodies will be aided by special ‘Ocean Cleanup’ floating barriers that will be positioned in accordance with the movement of the rotating ocean currents (also known as gyres – see below image). So basically, the plastic waste would flow passively with such currents, and then get sorted out by the V-shaped barriers. We say ‘sorted out’ because these barriers will totally avoid any kind of net-like mechanism that can inadvertently trap marine-based organisms. Instead they will be anchored by floating booms – which would allow both the water current and sea life to flow underneath the supports, while the lighter-than-water plastic gets accumulated along the top section of the barrier.
Now in terms of idea, this seems like an incredible solution; but what about the practical ocean-cleaning figures related to it? To that end, it is estimated that an array of such floating barriers being supported by the sea-bed, can account for millions of square kilometers of catchment area. In fact, as per the project’s calculation, a single 100 km Ocean Cleanup array can clean 42 percent of the ocean’s plastic in 10 years. And beyond just hypotheses, one of such barrier systems is already planned for deployment in 2016. This 6,500 ft long apparatus will set the world record for the longest floating object ever placed in the ocean, and it is to be positioned between Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture and South Korea.
For more details on the technology and the project, take a look at The Ocean Cleanup’s home site.