Garbage from around the world has been dumped into our oceans for years. Trash is typically picked by streams and rivers and ends up in the ocean where it gets trapped in ocean currents. The currents eventually lead the the trash to large swirling masses of garbage known as the Great Garbage Patches. Each patch is like a huge landfill in the middle of the ocean. Scientists have discovered garbage patches estimated to be as large as the state of Texas.
The garbage patches were first discovered in 1999 by Charles J. Moore. It was recognized right away by the national community as a possible threat to the ocean ecosystems. Many different solutions were proposed. Most solutions centered around collecting trash in the ocean with huge nets attached to boats.
However, these solutions created different problems. The costs involved due to fuel usage by the collection boats was large. Researchers and scientists also found that the nets would catch the marine life as well as trash.
However, the latest environmental friendly solution came from a 19 year old Denmark student, Boyan Slat. When Slat was 17 he became concerned about the ocean garbage patches when diving on vacation. As a school project, he decided to take the idea of nets a step further. Instead of taking huge ships out to try to capture garbage from the ocean, he suggested that we let the ocean current push the garbage into a collection net.
By placing large floating barriers within strategic locations, we can capture the plastic while easily letting marine life swim underneath the barriers. The barriers transport the trash to a conveyor belt which then deposits the trash into huge bins. Every couple of weeks’ ships collect the trash and bring it inland for proper disposal.
They estimate that with this approach we can clean up half the garbage patch within the next 10 years! The barriers will span over 60 miles long in order to catch the plastic.
In 2014, thanks to crowdsourcing funds and other philanthropic investments, Slat’s team began long term research project to see if this solution was a viable solution. The yearlong research project proved that the ocean cleanup of the garbage patch is possible. Furthermore, the plastic will not go to landfills, but rather to recycling plants which will further generate profit from all the plastic collected from the ocean.
We are excited to see what the future will hold!
You can learn more about the great ocean clean up here: http://www.theoceancleanup.com/