Innovative project to rid ocean of plastics launched

A giant plastic collector is currently being towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii.

Installation of System 001 at the Pacific Trial test site on September 15, 2018 [Credit: The Ocean Cleanup] [Unspecified]
Installation of System 001 at the Pacific Trial test site on September 15, 2018 [Credit: The Ocean Cleanup] [Unspecified]

An innovative project aimed at clearing plastic from the Pacific Ocean is on the go.

A 600-meter-long float with a three-metre-deep skirt is currently being towed into position, ready to start skimming the sea.

It’s being taken to a region of the Pacific between California and Hawaii, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This is one of five ocean circulatory systems, known as gyres, that draws debris into its centre where it becomes trapped.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is believed to be the biggest and dirtiest of these circulations, with the latest study published in Scientific Reports estimating that it contains at least 79,000 tonnes of floating plastic. 

Globally, it is estimated that more than eight million tonnes of plastic is thrown away and washed out to sea each year

Plastic is a major problem in the ocean because it takes centuries to break down.

Once trapped in a gyre, the plastic will break down into microplastics and become increasingly easy to mistake for food by sea life.

While the larger pieces of plastic can strangle animals like seals, the smaller pieces are eaten by fish, which in turn can be eaten by humans.

Not only does this mean the chemicals in the plastic enter the food chain, but so do other oily pollutants, which tend to be attracted to plastic once it’s in the water.

Currently, no one knows the effect these plastics or the oily debris have on human health.

At the current rate which plastic is entering the sea, by 2050 the plastic in the world’s oceans will weigh more than all the fish, according to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Now, non-profit organisation the Ocean Cleanup, has developed the first feasible method to rid the ocean of its plastic pollution.

Its developers are hoping that the project could remove 50 percent of plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years.

Called System 001, the device consists of a 600-metre-long float that sits at the surface of the water with a tapered three-meter-deep skirt below.

The float ensures plastic cannot flow over the device, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath.

It is designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, by moving through the ocean at extremely low speeds to allow creatures to swim out of the way and encouraging the current to flow underneath the skirt, thereby guiding any submerged organisms underneath the device.

The system was tested in the San Francisco Bay at the beginning of September and after a successful voyage, it is now being towed into place in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Source : Al Jazeera


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