An ocean cleanup device was recently designed with the sole intent to clean up the ocean's plastic problem. This device is a huge floating barrier that collects plastic and was initially placed in the Pacific Ocean, with its target being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Gyre contains an estimated two trillion pieces of plastic that is spread out over an area that is twice the size of Texas. The cleanup strategy is to concentrate the plastic into the device so it can be removed more easily by boat pickups.
It was placed in the water last year, but had middling results until eventually fracturing. The meant it needed to be removed from the water and redesigned for a sturdier frame. On top of the fracturing, it also moved at the wrong speeds to capture plastics. Sometimes it was too slow and sometimes it was too fast. By taking it out of the water, the team can also target that issue for its next deployment.
To fix the speed, the team plans on placing a parachute on it that would slow it down and allow it to consistently catch plastics. During testing, it was consistently catching the plastics and concentrated it by a factor of around 10,000, according Boyan Slat, founder of the nonprofit. "If we could do the to the whole patch, we'd take the plastic distribution down from twice the size of Texas, to one-tenth the size of the city of Houston," Slat wrote in a recent blog post.
Out of all the plastic ever made, only around 9% has been properly recycled and one estimate has as much as 150 million metric tons of plastic may have ended up in the ocean. This is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with and soon. Even if we magically start recycling better and stopped using less plastic, the plastic in the ocean would still exist.
Slat is optimistic about the future and this technology, despite recent setbacks. The Ocean Cleanup team plans to keep moving forward as quickly as it can to get to a system that works. The ultimate goal of this project is to get a fleet of these devices into the ocean. But for now, it is just the one that needs to be perfected.
If you find this interesting, you can check out the article here. Also, please check out their website for more information about the Ocean Cleanup project.