Possibly one of the least known environmental disasters of the 20th century, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is a large portion of the Pacific Ocean that is saturated with tiny plastic particles. These tiny bits of plastic have accumulated over the last sixty years as things like bottles and packaging have wound up in the ocean where they break down into pieces small enough for plankton to eat. Of course, plastic doesn’t biodegrade so it cannot be dissolved any further than that so it simply ends up hanging around until someone cleans it up.

A map of the Pacific Garbage Patch. There are currently two large concentrations of plastic along the coast of North America and Japan.

A map of the Pacific Garbage Patch. There are currently two large concentrations of plastic along the coast of North America and Japan.

Here’s where our hero emerges. A young Dutch engineering student by the name of Boyan Slat has devised a rough outline of an array of filtering platforms that could feasibly remove between 18-20 billion tons of plastic from the Pacific. The idea emerged over the course of writing a research paper which he then published. Ocean experts and engineers immediately took an interest, so much so that Slat formed a feasibility study to determine if the array could be built on a realistic budget.

Slat’s designs call for a system of stationary platforms that feature a slow-moving funnel that draws in ocean water, but leaves fish and plankton alone. The funnel would force the water through a filtering system whereby those tiny plastic bits would be removed and dumped in a container. Given enough time and platforms, the currently proposed Ocean Cleanup Array could produce $500 million worth of plastic for recycling. That’s a hefty sum of cash for land-based waste management systems, let alone an ocean-going one!

So far, Slat has started reaching out to engineers, biologists, and other scientists to help refine his invention and hopefully create a working prototype. The young Dutchman emphasizes that his cleanup array is still being studied to determine its feasibility, and not to expect any overnight miracles. But if he can get his idea off the ground, or rather into the sea, then he might just reverse the pollution that has been taking place for decades.

Source: Headlines & Global News