Device to Clean Up Great Pacific Garbage Patch Will Soon Be Deployed

A huge U-shaped garbage collector will be launched into the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 8, according to USA Today.

It will be the first of several dozen 2,000-foot long contraptions designed to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive, floating collection of debris containing 1.8 trillion pieces — or 80,000 metric tons — of plastic.

Located between California and Hawaii, it’s three times the size of Spain, according to Business Insider.

The idea comes from Dutch nonprofit the Ocean Cleanup. The organization claims that its system could clean up 50% of the patch in five years, according to the Telegraph.

The Ocean Cleanup was created by Boyan Slat, a 23-year-old Dutch college dropout, who is deeply concerned by the amount of plastic in oceans. When he was 16, he was diving off the coast of Greece and saw “more plastic bags than fish.” He went on to study aerospace engineering for half of a year and then decided to leave and focus on cleaning up the oceans, which led him to create the Ocean Cleanup in 2013. The nonprofit has received $31.5 million in donations, according to Science.

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The Ocean Cleanup device has been in the works for years, and prototypes were tested in 2017. Now that it’s ready to be deployed, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may soon start to shrink.

The contraption will sit on the surface of the water encompassing parts of the patch. A net will extend nine feet underwater and as plastic gets pushed around by ocean currents, it will get trapped and gathered in centralized locations for a boat to collect in the future. Because of how the net interacts with the current in the water, fish are able to swim below the netting, while it catches the garbage on the surface of the water.

The Ocean Cleanup is able to monitor the system with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors, and satellites, and these gadgets are also intended to keep ships from running into it, according to USA Today.

“I applaud the efforts to remove plastics – clearly any piece of debris cleared from the ocean is helpful,” Rolf Halden, a professor of environmental health engineering at Arizona State University, told USA Today.

But some marine experts are worried about potential detrimental effects it could have.

“We have serious concerns about the Ocean Cleanup and its effectiveness,” Dr. Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, told the Telegraph. “It seems likely that wildlife will be affected, especially the small floating plankton that many depend on and those organisms that passively float in the oceans who won’t be able to avoid these trays.”

The Marine Conservation Society is also worried about greenhouse gases and carbon emissions from the device. Instead of cleaning up the oceans, focus should be on stopping the production of plastic, the nonprofit said.

There has been concern regarding how effective it will be, too. Although it targets plastic and garbage at the surface of the ocean, microplastics are generally not captured and end up on the seafloor, according to USA Today.

Ocean plastic has become a central concern of the environmental movement. Not only does plastic harm marine life and humans, it also releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere contributing to global warming. Further, about 4% of the world’s production of oil is needed to create plastic and it takes thousands of years before plastics break down.

SOURCE: Global Citizen