by Mary Lee
ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) — Bay Area researchers have come up with a way to tackle the enormous problem of plastic debris in the ocean, a device designed to clean up what’s known as the Great Pacific garbage patch.
The floating junk yard between California and Hawaii is getting worse every day. It has now grown to about twice the size of Texas and contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 80,000 tons.
Researchers with the Netherlands-based non-profit group The Ocean Cleanup have come up with a solution to gathering all that plastic, which it will launch from its assembly yard in Alameda.
“Actually we had people saying to us the reason why you can’t clean up the ocean is because the plastic doesn’t stay in one spot and moves around,” said The Ocean Cleanup CEO & Founder Boyan Slat. “Then we thought, well is that really a problem or can we use that as a solution because why would you go after the plastic when it can come to you”
Here’s their idea: take a tow boat out to the garbage patch, hauling a 2,000 foot long plastic pipe with a ten-foot screen that drops down into the water to collect all the plastic. A fleet of 60 of these floating screens will follow the ocean currents just like the floating plastic.
“We use the same forces that move the plastic around and the beauty of that is that where the plastic concentrates our system will also concentrate,” said Joost Dubois, The Ocean Cleanup Head of Communications.
“Once it’s in this concentrated state it’s very easy to take it out. Simply put a net around it and check and see if there are no fish in it and close it up,” said Slat. “We just lift it out of the boat just like a bag filled with plastic.”
The system will launch this summer and researchers expect to bring back the first batch of Pacific plastic to the Bay Area by the end of the year.
If all goes well, more trips will be made and the researchers expect to remove half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years.
“I think it’s a tragic problem and also necessary problem,” said Slat. “Plastic doesn’t have to be ocean plastic pollution. I think it’s time to clean it up.”
The Ocean Cleanup has already raised $40 million dollars in funding.