According to Trevor Nance, a Forbes Contributor with a PhD in Geology, the largest scale clean-up attempt to rid the Pacific Ocean of its Great Garbage Patch, just got launched. The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is an accumulation consisting of an estimated 1,8 trillion pieces of plastic waste trapped in currents between Hawaii and the west coast of the continental United States. The garbage patch is of such an immense dimension, that it can be easily detected from space, it has an estimated size of 1,6 million square kilometres, which is equivalent to a bit more than 6,5 times the area of the entire UK.
The non-profit organization “Ocean Cleanup” is the first project to have taken an actual shot at this seemingly overambitious task. This is due to the fact that they have developed a new technology that they coined a “floating boom system”. This system was deployed on Saturday the 15thof September off the coast of San Francisco, where it is supposed to be tested on the open ocean. The initial tests in sheltered areas were really promising, which tends to make people believe that this time around, we might have something tangible to put a cap on the problem. However, if the issue can truly be resolved remains to be seen.
As to the floating boom system and the underlying technology, the system itself is made up of flotation devices that are essentially 600m long tubes. These are interconnected through buoys fitted with lights and sensors as well as cameras. The system will be powered through solar energy and will be in this sense also equipped with solar panels. As the entire contraption is essentially free-floating, to be able to be taken by the oceanic currents to where the largest densities of plastic waste are, the floating boom system needs to be able to communicate its position at all times.
Furthermore, as the floating tube will keep plastic from floating over the boom, there is a 3m deep net underneath the contraption to ensure that even smaller bits of plastic will be caught, without marine lifeforms being harmed. The depth of the net is the deepest towards the center, which will make the floating boom system shape itself into a U, without the need of any other source of energy but the ocean’s currents. In theory, it sounds like a fail-proof plan.
Once the U-shape is filled up, cargo ships can systematically be deployed to collect the compacted plastic debris efficiently and bring it back to shore where the plastic can be recycled into durable materials. The function of the boats will be essentially comparable to the function of a garbage truck, coming to collect your trashcans at home.
As to the project, it was founded and started by 18-year old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat and is now even backed by some of the Tech-industries heavy hitters such as Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce.com. In other words, even financially speaking, the project has real potential to succeed. Now there is just one thing left to do which is stop adding trash to the Ocean so that the project can have a shot at ridding us from this plague.